App Helps Fight Skin Cancer

About two million Americans will be told they have skin cancer this year, and about 50,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. So, how do you keep an eye on your skin, especially if you're at higher risk?

Dermatologists will tell you to keep an eye out for new lesions, or moles or freckles that change. The University of Michigan has come up with the UM Skin Check. It's an app for your iPhone that allows you to take pictures of different areas of your body and then you save them. The idea:  to help you and your doctor watch for those critical changes.

Dermatologist Tace Rico often uses her iPhone in the exam room. She can now leave patients with their own smart phone homework.

"It will give you a little alarm saying it's time to do a self-skin check. So it's just like doing your own breast cancer screenings at home. All of those things we should be doing our own self skin screenings at home," said Rico.

The app walks you through the steps of checking for, and tracking signs of skin cancer at home.

"You take pictures of your body at different angles, at different positions, so you can really see new lesions that are rising. That's one thing we try to do in clinic," said Rico.

You do need someone to help snap pictures of the hard to reach and overlooked places. The most overlooked spot is your scalp. Rico says a great idea for everyone is to ask the person who cuts your hair to help you check for anything suspicious.

"What we find with melanoma is most of the time is they rise, kind of 'de novo,' from a new area of skin not from a previous nevi, so that's really important to look at your full body and see if there are new lesions rising," Rico said.

Rico likes that the app was developed by a surgeon at the University of Michigan, so it has solid medicine behind it.

"It is different and I think it's made more as a companion to dermatology so it's not going to replace going to your dermatologist, of course, but it will help you manage your own skincare at home," explained Rico.

Another new app called Skin Scan allows you to take pictures of your moles or lesions. You then upload them for analysis. The app will then rate your risk of skin cancer based on the changes in those lesions. The creators of Skin Scan say the technology is not a replacement for your regular visits to the dermatologist.

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