Who can remember what life was like before the Smartphone? Your phone might already be your compass, your calendar, and your alarm clock. Now, it’s your doctor, too.

Cutting edge technology developed at the University of Michigan enables the iPhone camera to detect early signs of skin cancer. The free app, called UMSkinCheck, guides users through taking a series of 23 photos, covering the naked body from head to toe, creating a photographic baseline of the skin.

If any suspicious moles or other skin lesions are found, the app can assist users with a self-exam. Automatic reminders are sent so users can monitor changes over time. If a mole appears to be changing or growing, the photos can be shared with a dermatologist who can then determine whether a biopsy is necessary.

More than two million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, and some 50,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious kind.

“Whole body photography is a well-established resource,” said Michael Sabel, associate professor of surgery at the UM Medical School, who was the lead doctor involved in developing the app. “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.”


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