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Worried About Skin Cancer? There’s an App for That

Summer is the time we finally get a break from the cold and have the chance to enjoy fresh air, smell the blooming flowers and feel the sun’s rays. Picnics, tossing a frisbee in the park, hiking and many other outdoor activities that were off-limits are once again enjoyed as the weather finally allows us to venture out of hibernation. Unfortunately, all that outdoor fun comes with a serious risk. Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, has been rising and there are 132,000 cases diagnosed globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.

You may think Sunscreen helps, but it actually makes things worse. Experts advise us to stay in the shade, wear long-sleeves and pants, a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Though when hiking up a mountain on a blistering day, you’ve probably stripped off any outer layers in an attempt to cool down. You burned your shoulders and you’re afraid that funny-looking freckle on your shoulder looks weirder than usual. You want to make sure nothing funky is going on, but how do you do that when an appointment with a dermatologist comes with a long waiting list? Well, there’s now an app for that.

MelApp is an iPhone app that tries to detect melanoma at an early and curable stage, using mathematical algorithms and image based pattern recognition technology. The app was developed by molecular diagnostics company Health Discovery Corporation (HDC). To use the app, you take a picture of a suspect mole or freckle with your iPhone’s camera, zoom in to ensure it fills the green box on the screen, and the photo then gets uploaded and evaluated against a database licensed from Johns Hopkins University Medical Center.

If the risk is significant, MelApp will recommend you seek medical advice and can refer you to a nearby specialist for a follow up. The app also store images in albums so that you can track changes in your freckles and moles over time. While the app is in no way meant to replace medical advice, it would be handy to be able to show the dermatologist an album that tracks your suspicious freckle. MelApp is available from the iTunes store and costs $1.99. An Android version is coming soon.

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About Silvia Pikal

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