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Mole Apps, Melanoma, Skin Cancer

Skin cancers are skin with increasing frequency and are often aggressive, Dr Paul Charlson discusses the use of mobile technology to aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of these skin lesions

British Association of Dermatologists

Moles Apps

Dr Paul Charlson

President BCAM, Aesthetic Physician and GP with Extended interest in Dermatology

Melanoma is a deadly and increasingly common skin cancer.[i] It is often curable if detected and removed in the early stages.[ii] Increasing public awareness of this disease, prevention and diagnosis are key elements in reducing morbidity and mortality[iii].

Publicity about melanomas is generally a positive force but can have negative effects. Firstly it can make some patients anxious. These patients can be difficult to handle resulting in frequent consultations. It can also result in pigmented lesions that are very likely to be benign being referred on “2 week rule” by  primary care clinicians whilst melanomas in less anxious can be referred routinely with lengthened waiting times[iv].

Mole apps are new. Current NICE guidance recommends monitoring pigmented lesions that are slightly suspicious by photography with a review at 8 weeks. Clinical systems are not user friendly but mole apps are. Virtually everyone has a smart phone these days so apps provide a convenient way of monitoring moles.  . Some apps also provide useful information about melanoma. Others such as Fotoskin allow you to assess your melanoma risk. Mole Monitor is the only app that is approved by NICE and is particularly useful because it allows for consistent photography. One of the key problems with photographing lesions is ensuring that these are consistent so change can be monitored effectively. I tried this and it is very easy to use.

Apps do not replace a proper history and examination by clinicians and should not be relied upon as absolute. However the advantages of apps are as follows.

  1. They raise awareness of melanoma risk
  2. They alert patients to moles that may be malignant simply on appearance
  3. Many patients are not sure if moles are changing and apps can provide objective evidence of change or non change
  4. They can be utilised by physicians to monitor moles and to engage patients in the process

On balance apps are useful.

The apps that I found are as follows

Mole monitor

Myskinpal

Fotoskin

Miiskin

My MoleChecker

Some are free and most are both Apple and android compatible. I would recommend examining mole apps as a potentially useful addition to patient care.

Conflict of interest

Dr Charlson is medical director of Skinqure Clinics and has worked in Community Dermatology clinics taking GP referrals since 2004. He provides dermatological advice on a daily basis in his clinical work.

He has no financial interest in any mole app.

[i] http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/skin-cancer/incidence

[ii] http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/melanoma-prognosis-and-survival-rates

[iii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2121231/

[iv] . Jones R, Rubin G, Hungin P. Is the two week rule for cancer referrals working? BMJ. 2001;323:24–8