Could that mole be skin cancer? There’s an app for that

Doctors at the University of Michigan hope to turn the iPhone into a weapon in the battle against skin cancer.

They have created a free app that can be used to examine suspicious moles and compare them to pictures of various types of skin cancers.

Using the camera on their iPhone and the app, UMSkinCheck, people can create a photographic baseline of their skin. The app walks users through a step-by-step self-exam as they take 23 photos of their body, from head to toe.

Reminders are sent to repeat the exam on a regular basis. If a mole appears to grow or change, the pictures can be shown to a dermatologist.

The app also includes a calculator to determine a person’s risk of skin cancer.

The goal is to aid early detection of skin cancer, which affects 2 million Americans every year. About 50,000 are diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious kind, the U-M doctors say.

“Whole-body photography is a well-established resource for following patients at risk for melanoma,” said Dr. Michael Sabel, an associate professor of surgery and the lead physician in developing the app.

“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 the iPhone and iPad and can be downloaded on iTunes. The team that created it is exploring the possibility of an app for Android, U-M officials say.

To check it out, go to the app preview on iTunes.

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Email Sue Thoms at sthoms1@mlive.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/suethoms

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