A new free app developed by the University of Michigan Health System allows users to create a photographic baseline of their skin and photograph suspicious moles and other skin lesions.
The app, called UMSkinCheck, provides a step-by-step self skin examination tool that sends automatic reminders so that you are able to monitor skin changes over time. It also provides pictures of various types of skin cancers for comparison.
Dr. Michael Sabel, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School and lead physician involved in developing the app, states that whole body photography is a well-established resource for following patients at risk for melanoma. However, it requires a professional photographer and is not always covered by insurance, and can be an inconvenience. He goes on to say that many people have digital cameras on their phones, so it's now more feasible to do this at home.
The app, a collaboration of the University of Michigan's technology and clinical expertise, guides users through a series of 23 photos, covering the body from head to toe. Photos are stored within the app and will serve as a baseline for future comparisons. If a mole appears to be changing or growing, the photos can then be shared with a medical expert to help determine if a biopsy is necessary.
More than 2 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, 50,000 of which will be diagnosed with melanoma. Early detection may help people discover melanoma in its initial stages and this in turn may prevent late-stage diagnosis and extensive treatment.
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. If you have fair skin or burn easily, have had sunburns in the past or use tanning beds, or have a family history of melanoma, you are considered high-risk, and so it's even more important.
Not sure if you're at risk for skin cancer? The app includes a risk calculator that allows you to input your personal data to calculate your individual risk.
The UMSkinCheck app is designed for iPhone and iPad and is available to download on iTunes.
To view this article in full and other U-M cancer news, please visit
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.