Spotting melanoma by smartphone

Wednesday 10th June, 2015

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Is self examination technology the way forward for treating skin cancer or could it lead to overdiagnosis?

Monitoring moles regularly helps detect melanoma at an early stage. Photo: Scott Robinson

A new early warning device could help stem the rise of melanoma in Britain - all you have to do is attach a lens to a smartphone and take a picture of a worrisome mole.

Skin Analytics founder Neil Daly was born and raised in Australia which has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Daly saw a business opportunity in the UK to make people more aware of the danger of being exposed to the sun.

According to Cancer Research UK, the skin cancer rate in males was around seven times higher between 2009 and 2011 than 1975 and 1977. For women, the figures have quadrupled.

“The sun comes out and people think they can do whatever they want, but intermediate sun exposure is one of the lead causes of melanoma,” Daly said.

Although the service has not been launched yet, the attachment for smartphones will now be available for the clients of insurance company Vitality Health.  

“The clients concerned about their moles will get the attachment through the mail. They’ll take a picture of it, a dermatologist will study it and a diagnosis will be ready in 24 hours,” Daly explained.

Intermediate sun exposure is one of the lead causes of melanoma

According to Sarah Williams, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, the sooner cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat successfully. And although technology is revolutionising our lives, she emphasised the importance of having checks and balances to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks.

“As well as being sure that a test doesn’t miss too many cancers or raise too many false alarms, we also need to understand whether it could lead to people being overdiagnosed and treated for a cancer that would never have caused them any harm,” she said of Skin Analytics.

Daly believes this  initial launch will help the startup understand how clients react to the service and what improvements are needed to get approval from the regulatory bodies.