Checking for troublesome skin spots just got easier, thanks to a new free app for iPhones and iPads that uses cell phone photography to screen for skin cancer.
Here’s how it works: Using a guide on the app, users take 23 photos of their body, one section at a time. Yes, you have to be naked, and yes, someone has to help you, unless you’re incredibly flexible and can take clear pictures of yourself from behind.
The first round of pictures is stored in the phone and serves as a baseline for future check-ups. The app will also send reminders to do the exam. Any spot that is worrisome or appears to change should be shown to a doctor, but the phone will have the evidence. Just make sure not to forward those shots to anyone.
The app also offers a risk calculator that allows you to determine your odds for developing skin cancer.
“Whole body photography is a well-established resource for following patients at risk for melanoma,” said Dr. Michael Sabel, the lead physician on the team that developed the app, in a news release.
Sabel, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School, added, “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.”
Early detection is key for treating diseases such as melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Doing routine mole checks isn’t something most people do, nor do they ask people to look in places they can’t see.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly head to toe self-examinations of the skin to check for evidence of basal or squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. Things to look for include moles, birthmarks or beauty marks or any spot that changes color, gets bigger or thicker or has an irregular outline. Also check for spots or sores that don’t heal or continually itch, scab or bleed.
If melanoma is caught and treated early, the Foundation says, the prognosis is usually good—the disease is almost always curable. But left to advance and spread, it can be fatal.
The University of Michigan also has a Cancer AnswerLine for people with questions about cancer.
Has early detection had an impact on your life? Tell us about it in the comments.
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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine | TakePart.com