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iPhone app uses your naked photos to track skin cancer

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A new app from the Unversity of Michigan can help you conduct a self exam and detect skin cancer warning signs.

After your summer tan begins to fade and you worry about all the damage you may have done to your skin, wouldn't it be great if you could check out your skin for potential skin cancer without trekking to your doctor? Now there's an app for that. But there's a catch: You'll have to fully expose yourself for results.

The University of Michigan developed the iPhone app, coined UMSkinCheck (free), to help you conduct a self exam and detect skin cancer warning signs. Background info within the app says that "studies have shown that total body photography can be an important tool in helping track skin changes that could indicate skin cancer."

And while whole body photographic self-diagnosis already exists, the app aims to make it a bit simpler - and cheaper. Instead of hiring a professional photographer for full body shots, the app allows you to take multiple shots of different body parts. In other words, take 23 nude photographs in 7 different poses that will be stored on an app. And you can't take all the photos yourself, so you'll have to enlist a friend to help.

The app includes useful tools in addition to the full-body survey: You can do a self-exam, where it guides you through checking parts of your body that are most likely to have exposure to sun, a lesion tracker, so you can note if sunspots on your body have changed or become abnormal, and a risk calculator, which asks questions like your race and amount of freckles to determine your chance of developing melanoma.

There's also important information on sun damage and tips on how to stay safe. A Characteristics of Melanoma tab shows images of what potential skin cancer could look like, a Sun Safety tab has tips on how to preserve your skin while outside and a Sunscreen Tips tab has lots of info on what kind of sunscreen to use and when to use it. And there's a helpful feature for links on learning more about skin cancer and preventing it.

Thankfully the app has a password protection setting, which, when enabled, keeps your information and images private. But it really freaked us out that users had to think to enable the feature; otherwise their photos could be available to who knows who. Creepy.

You can also set up notification times for when you should do a self-exam or check lesions. And you can set an exam frequency of every 30, 45, 60, 75 or 90 days, so you'll be reminded to conduct regular exams.

It's an interesting concept, and we'd certainly like to track potential skin cancer on ourselves since doctor visits typically only occur annually. But we're not quite ready to fork over 23 naked photos, even if they're for a good cause.

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