The app that detects skin cancer – and could be more accurate than a DOCTOR

Doctors are constantly warning people about the risks of skin cancer, urging them to get any unusual looking moles checked out by doctors.

But the process of investigating these lesions can be a long-winded and, in some cases, complicated process.

A Houston professor is hoping to drastically cut the time it takes to identify cancerous cells using a smartphone app and attachment – and he even claims it is more accurate than doctors.

The app, called DermoScreen, is now being evaluated at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre.

If successful, it could make quick and inexpensive screening a reality for millions of people who lack access to medical specialists.

George Zouridakis, professor of engineering technology at Houston University, has worked on the project since 2005.

The goal is to provide quick screening in rural areas or in the developing world, where specialty medical care generally isn’t available, he said.

Early testing found the device to be accurate 85 per cent of the time, based on visual characteristics.

This is slightly lower than the 90 per cent accuracy rate for dermatologists, but more accurate than family doctors, who have an accuracy average of between 50 and 70 per cent, according to official U.S industry figures.

Once launched, patients would be referred for follow-up if the lesions spotted on the app were suspected to be cancerous.

In addition to a mobile phone, the technology uses a dermoscope attachment – a special magnifying lens that provides special illumination of the area being photographed.

Before the app becomes widely available, Zouridakis said he wants to make sure it is as accurate as possible.

He is also looking into other diagnostic uses for the technology, such as testing the device’s ability to screen Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating bacterial disease, in Africa.

Dr. Ana Ciurea, assistant professor of dermatology at MD Anderson, said the project is in the early stages but looks promising.

‘Our research with Dr. Zouridakis on his promising iPhone app will focus on evaluating its use for risk assessment and as a screening tool for early detection of melanomas,’ she said.

‘We are in early stages of planning and approval for this project, but such an application, if validated, has the potential for widespread use to ultimately improve patient care.’


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