Practical Apps 17: Skin Cancer
Dr. Matthew Cruickshank
Dr. Matthew Cruickshank is a practicing family physician in Toronto. He holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from Queen’s University where he developed skills in the development and implementation of technology products and an understanding of how they can enhance traditional systems. He studied medicine at University of Western Ontario and completed his residency at University of Toronto. During his medical education he developed an interest in practice optimization with novel uses of technology. Matthew is currently practicing family medicine at a community-based family practice in Toronto that has a focus on technology integration in family practice to optimize the patient and physician experience.
This app’s website explains that the wife of the developer had had many moles removed and required regular skin self-examinations. She asked her husband to help her with this and he became increasingly frustrated by the task, finding it very difficult to notice subtle changes in moles. He developed Miiskin as a simple tool to document and organize photos of moles for comparison over time. The app is user friendly and easy to get started with. The app offers a subscription for $4.49 U.S. per month or $30.99 U.S. per year to back up photos on a secure cloud. This would not be required for many users as the app also lets users export photos. For patients who require skin self-examination, this app is a useful tool. The app is available as a free download from the Apple and Android app stores.
UMSkinCheck is a free mobile app developed by the University of Michigan medicine department. It was included in this review as it provides a broader range of features than most mole tracking apps. It is the only app that guides users through creating a full body photographic library which can then be used for later comparison. It also lets users track individual lesions and provides education on skin cancer. Although the app was recently updated, it has an outdated look and feel and would benefit from a more comprehensive update. It also has some important limitations such as not providing a backup tool and not letting users import higher resolution photos which would be especially useful for the full body survey. This app could be useful for patients who require skin self-examination and want to take the extra step in creating a full body photo library. It is available in both the Android and Apple app stores.
UV-INDEKS is an app developed in Denmark in collaboration with the Danish Cancer Society, among other organizations. It is available as a free download from the Apple and Android app stores. It provides up-to-date UV index information for locations all over the world based on the weather forecast from the Danish Meteorological Institute. It also provides a graphical hourly UV forecast for the day and daily forecast for the week. It allows users to complete a self-assessment of their skin type and offers specific recommendations in light of how they might react to various UV indices. The app can be set up to send users warnings for high UV index days but these warnings are only issued once a day instead of in real time. This app provides useful information for those trying to reduce their UV exposure. The information it provides is also integrated into comprehensive weather applications that many smartphone users already use.
Sunface is an app that offers a novel tool for skin cancer education and prevention that takes advantage of our vanity. Sunface allows users to take a selfie of their face and morph it through five to 25 years of aging with and without sun protection and from weekly tanning. Allowing users to see what UV damage will do to their appearance motivates users to modify their behaviour and protect themselves from UV radiation. The app was piloted in two secondary schools and after using the app the majority of students reported that they were motivated to reduce UV exposure and avoid using tanning beds8. This app could act as a fun and accessible tool that may help modify behaviour for skin cancer prevention.
1) “About Skin Cancer.” Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, 2018, www.canadianskincancerfoundation.com/about-skin-cancer.html.
2) From, L., et al. “Screening for Skin Cancer.” Cancer Care Ontario, 19 June 2009, www.cancercareontario.ca/en/file/3336/download?token=3yAI2HKV.
3) Cancer Council Australia, et al. “Melanoma.” Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, 2008, canadiantaskforce.ca/portfolios/melanoma/.
4) Maier, T., et al. “Accuracy of a Smartphone Application Using Fractal Image Analysis of Pigmented Moles Compared to Clinical Diagnosis and Histological Result.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, vol. 29, no. 4, 2014, pp. 663–667., doi:10.1111/jdv.12648.
5) Wolf, Joel A., and Laura K. Ferris. “Diagnostic Inaccuracy of Smartphone Applications for Melanoma Detection Reply.” JAMA Dermatology, vol. 149, no. 7, 2013, p. 885., doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.4337.
6) Healio. “FTC Announces Settlements against Marketers of Apps Claiming Utility in Early Melanoma Detection.” Cancer Commons, 25 Feb. 2015, www.cancercommons.org/tag/melapp/.
7) “SkinVision.” SkinVision – Skin Cancer Melanoma Detection App, 2018, www.skinvision.com/.
8) Brinker, Titus Josef, et al. “Photoaging Mobile Apps in School-Based Melanoma Prevention: Pilot Study.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 19, no. 9, 2017, doi:10.2196/jmir.8661.