An AI skin mapping app has been developed to allow patients to detect one of the most common warning signs of melanoma.
Miiskin, the app that supports the British Skin Foundation’s work, has introduced the technology to help alert adults to new moles and marks on their skin. Research has shown lower public awareness that these could be a sign of cancer.
There were 13,740 new cases of melanoma in England alone in 2017 – with 10,000 of these estimated to have first shown as new moles or marks. However, although most British adults (83%) are aware that an existing mole that changes over time could be a sign of skin cancer, there is less understanding (64%) of the significance of a new mark or mole on the skin.
The technology is an app-light version for patients of total body photography, which helps doctors to spot abnormalities. The app uses artificial intelligence to digitally map out the skin to make it easier for its users to detect new moles, freckles and other marks.
Jon Friis, founder of Miiskin, said: “Larger scale skin mapping for the identification of new moles and other marks has not previously been openly available for the public to use themselves. In adults, more than 70% of melanomas show up as new marks or moles on the skin, not as changes to a previously existing mole. We’ve developed the technology to support this important element of self-checking, alongside tracking of individual moles.”
Developed in collaboration with the head of AI and medical computer imaging at the University of Copenhagen, it allows patients to capture and track wide-area images of their back – a part of the body that one in three adults in Britain (35%) admits they do not check thoroughly.
Dr Anton Alexandroff, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, said: “Patients often look for changes to existing moles but can be unaware they should also check for new moles or marks on their skin. With skin mapping technology historically associated with a clinical setting, it hasn’t previously been widely accessible for patients to use themselves. Bringing this kind of technology to patients can help raise awareness of the importance of regularly checking your own skin for changes and alerts adults to the potential significance of new moles or marks.”
Latest government statistics show an annual increase in deaths from malignant melanoma of the skin in England, with historic data indicating a 43% increase in mortality levels from the disease since 2001.
Professor Chris Bunker, consultant dermatologist at University College London Hospitals and former president of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “It can be challenging to keep track of new moles or marks, particularly in areas of the body that are more difficult to see, like your back. Technology that helps patients to identify new or changing moles more easily can encourage them to present earlier to their GP or specialist, so they can be checked professionally and treated if required.”
The Miiskin platform was created to help people identify changes in their skin and moles, with reminders to routinely check skin and the types of things to look for.
The app has received 350,000 downloads globally, 50,500 in the UK. It does not try to diagnose skin cancer or tell users that they are at risk or not. People who spot changes are encouraged to seek advice from their GP or another medical professional.