The new free app, developed at the University of Michigan Health System, gives users a step-by-step walkthrough of a skin self-exam.
The app, UMSkinCheck, sends automatic reminders so users can monitor changes to a skin lesion over time, and provides pictures of various types of skin cancers for comparisons.
Early discovery important
The researchers behind the product emphasize that prevention is still the number one priority, with sunscreens just one option, but that regular skin checks, as with this app, can help people discover melanoma in its earliest stages.
"We recommend skin self-exams for everyone in order to detect skin cancer at the earliest stages, when treatment is less invasive and more successful,” says Michael Sabel, associate professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School and was the lead physician involved in developing the app.
“If you have fair skin or burn easily, have had sunburns in the past or used tanning beds, or have a family history of melanoma, you are considered high-risk, and so it's even more important."
The app is a collaboration of the University of Michigan's technology and clinical expertise, and guides users through a series of 23 photos, covering the body from head to toe.
Photos are stored within the app and serve as a baseline for future comparisons, with the app creating a reminder to repeat a skin self-exam on a regular basis.
"Whole body photography is a well-established resource for following patients at risk for melanoma,” continues Sabel.
“However, it requires a professional photographer, is not always covered by insurance, and can be an inconvenience. Now that many people have digital cameras on their phones, it's more feasible to do this at home."
The app is designed for iPhone and iPad and is available to download on iTunes, alongside other similar apps such as Skin Scanner, Skin Scan, and an offering from Cancer Research UK.