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September 3, 2011

BehindTheMedspeak: Skin of Mine iPhone app analyzes moles — Is it cancer?


From Steven Leckart's excellent survey of smartphone image-recognition apps in Thursday's New York Times: "[A] photo-recognition tool with health implications is Skin of Mine, a $2.99 iPhone app that analyzes moles and freckles."


"Start the app, and an outline of a human body appears. Once you touch a spot on the body, the camera opens. After taking a snapshot, you trace a mole using a tiny on-screen pencil. From there, the mole's symmetry, border and color are analyzed and assigned numerical values. By cross-checking the numbers with a database of a few hundred images culled from dermatologists, the app estimates whether your mole might be consistent with melanoma."


"'The idea isn't to replace your dermatologist, but keep an eye on things between doctor visits,' says Ellen Kislal, president of Medical Image Mining Laboratories, which developed Skin of Mine. For users in Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and New York, the app also provides the option of connecting online with a doctor. For $40 to $65, the doctor will examine your photo and make a diagnosis. Eventually, the app will expand to include assessments of other skin conditions like acne, vitiligo and wrinkles, Dr. Kislal said."


For the overwhelming majority of people, there is no dermatologist to replace.

Most insurance plans don't let you visit a dermatologist without a referral from a primary care physician, who may not be the best screener when it comes to deciding whether a mole deserves a specialized opinion.

$40 to $65 is cheap at 100 times the price if the app flags a lesion that turns out to be an early melanoma.

And with a database expanded to included thousands or tens of thousands of images, the app will only get better at distinguishing benign from malignant.

This is a really big deal, in my opinion, and represents the bleeding edge of the coming age of interactive tele-medicine, letting anyone with a phone have access to the very finest diagnosticians and clinicians on the planet.

Melanoma is 100% curable — if it's caught early enough.


September 3, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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