Could an app really save your life? That's the claim from the maker of Skin Scan. The mobile app was designed to help detect skin cancer and in a Tech Talk special report, WHNT News 19's Michelle Stark teamed up with a Huntsville dermatologist to put the app to the test.
Skin Scan offers a digital diagnosis of moles on the body - using the same markers doctors look for - asymmetry, border, color and diameter. The app is easy to use - just snap a photo, upload, then wait for the app to analyze the image.
After checking out the app on his own and doing several trial readings on our news team, Dr. John Sowell of Huntsville's Dermatology Associates found it was "set up to be pretty sensitive." He added that "[It picked up] slight irregularities in brown lesions, even benign brown lesions."
Sowell thought that sensitivity could lead to some false scares. He also noted that the app itself "doesn't account for recent changes, recent growth, or if a mole has begun to itch or have some symptoms." It's up to each user to remember to monitor any suspicious lesions.
Still, Sowell saw Skin Scan as a great tool for awareness. The American Cancer Society reports Melanoma - the most serious skin cancer - will account for more than 75,000 cases in 2012. An app like Skin Scan, so easily available to users, could prompt them to be more agressive - and committed - in looking for problem spots on the body.
Only a biopsy can detect skin cancer at the microscopic level - detect changes in the cells of the body - so no app can ever completely replace a doctor's skill.
When combined with visits to a dermatologist though, Sowell sees strong benefits for the public.
"I would say that if something looks odd enough that you want to photograph it and scan it into your app I would always call a physician as well."
If you'd like to try out Skin Scan, you can download it in the App Store on your Apple device. It's optimized for iPhone and costs $4.99.
To see what happened when WHNT News 19's Michelle Stark and Tim Hanson tested out the app on themselves, make sure to watch the video above.