A new iPhone app, Mole Mapper, lets users measure, map, monitor and photograph skin moles. This information shows users changes in moles that could be signs of skin cancer. In addition, users can share their data with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Melanoma Registry to help melanoma research.
Dan Webster, PhD, a cancer biologist, created the first version of the app to watch his wife’s moles because of her high risk of developing melanoma. Then, Webster collaborated with Oregon Health and Science University, Sage Bionetworks and Apple to use the app for melanoma research.
“One of the most important melanoma risk factors is how a mole is evolving over time, but nobody really measures that in a quantitative way,” says Webster. “Using Mole Mapper we’re attempting to understand when a mole is ‘watch-and-wait’ and when it requires the attention of a dermatologist, and to understand the basics of how moles change as a proxy for increased risk of melanoma. Until now, there wasn’t large, systematic study that asks how much change is dangerous, or whether that change matters more or less depending on where a mole is located on the body.”
Although melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, it is the most serious according to the Mayo Clinic. When melanoma spreads to other parts of the body, it is hard to cure and the survival rate is poor. Therefore, early detection is crucial.
“This is just the beginning of the War on Melanoma,” says Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Research Program. “We now have the unprecedented opportunity to bring in more data than ever to fuel research. This can be another tool to empower patients to take charge of their health monitoring. It also gives health care providers additional data to inform patient recommendations and diagnoses.”
Skin cancers are the most common types of cancers according to the National Cancer Institute. Melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell are the three most common types of skin cancer. Anyone can get skin cancer, but there are risk factors including:
- Sun exposure
- Sun burns as a child
- Having fair skin
- Exposure to UV rays in tanning booths and beds
- Family history
- Taking medications that suppress the immune system
To lower your risk of developing skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends
- Using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when you are outdoors
- Avoiding exposure to the sun when its rays are strongest
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses and a hat to cut your sun exposure
- Getting the right amount of Vitamin D
- Monitoring your skin for anything changing, growing or bleeding
The MoleMapper app is free and available from iTunes.
This article was first published on Examiner.com.