The digital age has made early detection of cancer more likely than ever, increasing the chance for full recovery with research and treatment being more accessible. Melanomas can grow incredibly quickly, often within a matter of weeks, and accurate tracking can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
The ability to track the appearance of your skin through an application on your phone sounds like a no-brainer, encouraging early detection and urgency for a quicker recovery. But do skin checking apps work? And how reliable are they? Read on for our breakdown of the facts.
Five Apps That Can Track Changes in the Skin
- UMSkinCheck - a free app that guides the user through a full-body skin check
- Derma Analytics - allows the user to track the measurements of any moles on their body and provides access to area-specific real-time weather and UV rating data
- MiiSkin - a paid app that allows the user to track moles and large areas of skin over time
- MoleScope - a high-resolution camera compatible with many different smartphones that can perform skin mapping, image management and offer regular reminders for your checkups
- SkinVision - this app can help users to identify high-risk moles that require further investigation and provide advice on further steps to take.
These apps can provide a decent method of tracking your moles and the condition of your skin, however, there is a risk that they won't detect finite concerns. Technology has come a long way, yet it doesn't match the ability of the human eye and the benefits of experience in detecting melanoma.
Reports from peer-reviewed sources such as the Cochrane Review and the British Medical Journal reveal that skin checking apps are disadvantaged by a lack of testing, a shortage of expert input during development, and technology issues impacting their performance. These factors combine to result in the apps often being inaccurate, either causing unnecessary anxiety or giving false peace of mind.
The only way to be sure of the health of your skin is through a professional skin exam. Apps can help you to keep track of your skins condition, but you should never ignore the warning signs of skin cancer or rely on an app for absolute certainty.
If you're concerned and wish to keep an eye on your skin prior to your annual skin check, a self-examination is an effective method to note what to show your doctor and keep track of lesion growth.
Tips for Skin Self Exams
A monthly self-exam is one of the best ways to achieve early detection and therefore successful treatment of skin cancer.
Completing a self examination includes the following steps:
- Examine your body in a full length mirror, front and back, left to right
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms, forearms and underarms
- Look at your legs, soles of your feet and between the toes
- Use a handheld mirror to examine your scalp, the back of your neck, your buttocks and back
The warning signs to look out for during your self exam include:
Asymmetry - Melanoma moles have halves that don't match, with one side shaped or coloured differently from the other.
Border - The border of a melanoma is usually irregular, blurred, jagged, notched, or scalloped.
Color - Melanoma moles are often made up of different colours such as brown or tan mixed with black or even blue, pink, red, or white.
Diameter or Dark - If you have a mole that is bigger than 1cm, it may be a melanoma, especially if the mole is significantly darker than other moles.
Evolving - A mole that changes rapidly or progresses over time in either shape, size or colour should be assessed. More so if the mole is itchy or bleeds.
Everyone should be checking their skin, but you are particularly at risk if you have fair skin, light hair and eyes, freckles, a history of burning or using solarium beds, a family history of skin cancer or a large amount of moles.
Be Armed With The Facts
Melanoma is one of the deadliest and most common types of skin cancer. Your skin is made up of three layers - the outer layer of the skin (epidermis), the middle layer with connective tissue and blood vessels (dermis) and the bottom layer of fat (hypodermis).
The epidermis contains specialised cells that produce the natural colouring of the skin (the melanin). Melanoma occurs when these cells begin multiplying at an out of control rate that the body cannot handle.
Melanoma can form from a non cancerous mole on the epidermis and can occur on any part of the body. Other types of skin cancer include squamous cell carcinoma which grows on the very surface of the epidermis, and basal cell carcinoma which grows on the bottom layer of the epidermis.
A professional will check the entire surface of the epidermis often with a specialised magnifying glass to get up close and personal with the mole's development. If they detect any concerning characteristics, early treatment is incredibly effective and a plan will be developed.
The downside with smartphone apps is the lack of ability to examine your moles progress, limited by the quality of your camera and the lack of subjectivity of a trained professional. They are helpful to keep track of your skin or any concerning moles, but they are certainly not enough to rule out or confirm a skin cancer diagnosis.
Be Certain with SunDoctors...
After performing thousands of skin checks every year, your SunDoctors professional will be able to grant certainty that your skin is healthy or support you through the journey of treatment.
We provide comprehensive care from the skin check through to your lab work and advice around aftercare or follow up treatment. With all procedures completed in one place, you can feel confident and calm with a team who knows you well, with low wait times for treatment and the peace of mind that everything is handled by the same professionals.
Technology is growing at a promising rate to support early detection and treatment for many types of cancer. However the diagnosis of skin cancer is such a visual process and the only way to be certain is by booking an appointment with a professional.
Click here to book your skin check with Sun Doctors.