According to the World Health Organization (WHO), skin cancers are on the rise over the past decades. Currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers (basal and squamous cell skin cancers) and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year.
Skin cancer is also the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer with one person dying of melanoma every single hour.
The CDC projects that without additional community prevention efforts, melanoma will continue to increase over the next 15 years, with 112,000 new cases projected in 2030.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, develop on the outer layers of the skin and they are the most common form of skin cancers.
Melanoma is a skin cancer that forms in the cells responsible for skin pigmentation, known as melanocytes. It is less common than basal or squamous cell skin cancers, however, it is much more aggressive.
Symptoms of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers are similar and may include a growth or spot on the skin, a change in the size or color of a mole, a new growth, itchiness, pain or tenderness, or a spread of pigmentation outside the border of a mole.
Regular self-examination of the skin and moles can have a beneficial effect in the early detection of changes and it is recommended by health experts.
People who are at higher risk of developing skin cancer, such as those with light-colored skin or hair, blue, green, or hazel eyes, tendency to burn rather than suntan, or history of severe sunburns, or those who have many moles or freckles, and a family history of skin cancer, are advised to regularly examine their skin to track changes, or to take photos to keep records of the skin's appearance and show them to their doctor.
Despite all the efforts, melanoma or skin cancer can be still difficult to detect. A number of mobile apps claim they could assess certain skin changes and inform individuals whether such changes should be a reason for a visit to a dermatologist.
These apps allow users to take photos of their skin and track and monitor all changes on their smartphones or tablets.
But there are the legitimate concerns regarding the accuracy of such apps. Do they really help people in early detection of skin cancer? Or are they putting patients at risk by delaying diagnosis?
A study published several years ago in JAMA Dermatology, analyzed four apps claiming to detect skin cancer. They found that only one app was the most accurate, although it missed almost 30% of melanomas, diagnosing them as low-risk lesions.
While many of the skin cancer apps should not be relied on for cancer detection, they have shown a potential benefit by raising awareness among the general public and encouraging patients to perform frequent self-examinations and visit a dermatologist for further assessment.
As we wrote in an article a year ago, many mobile apps are not accurate for skin cancer screening, but some still may help detect melanoma.
In that article, we listed some of the apps that may be worth downloading, including the app we review today - Miiskin.
Miiskin - Melanoma Skin Cancer app is a simple personal skin monitoring tool designed to assist and help people explore and monitor changes on their skin and moles.
It utilizes the phone's camera allowing users to take photos of their skin and moles and store them on the device. The app allows users to log the mole location anywhere on the body.
The users can set reminders to be alerted when it's time to take a new photo of a suspicious mole to track any changes that may have occurred during the indicated period of time, ranging from every month to every 12 months.
Besides tracking abilities, the Miiskin app also provides informational articles about melanoma and skin cancer.
The app's interface is quite simple. Users choose to photograph a skin area or new mole, specify a location and set a reminder for follow-up photos.
Once the image is saved, users can add notes into the mole overview screen or take a follow-up photo after the indicated period of time.
These photos (both initial and follow-up) can be easily shown to the dermatologist during the regular check-up.
This is what the Miiskin app advises its users because none of these skin checking apps can provide people with accurate diagnosis or substitute a visit to their physician or dermatologist.
The Miiskin app posted a disclaimer stating that it does not diagnose your moles or evaluate the risk of melanoma or skin cancer in any way. The app is only meant to assist users with tracking their moles over time by maintaining a photo diary.
The app further advises its users to always consult a certified doctor if they find a mole or skin change that looks suspicious and let them check the skin and moles for any signs of skin cancer or malignant melanoma.
The Miiskin app is available for free download on both Android and iOS platforms. However, not all the skin monitoring features are unlocked in the free version of the app.
To unlock these features, such as the ability to take photos of large areas (back, for example), examine photos on the bigger screen, or automatic backups of photos in PIN protected cloud database, users should purchase the Miiskin Premium subscription for $3.49 a month or $24.99 a year.
Before purchasing Premium, users can get a 30-day trial of all Premium features for free.
The Miiskin app allows users to add more than one profile to track, which makes it particularly useful for caregivers.
A few days ago, the Miiskin app has become the first mobile app to receive dermatological accreditation from the Skin Health Alliance that awards professional dermatological accreditation to products and services around the world, verifying them as skin safe.
This obviously places the Miiskin app higher on the list of the apps that may help users track changes on their skin and moles. However, despite all the benefits this app may have, it cannot replace the real dermatologist.
I would still recommend Miiskin app as a useful tool for tracking any suspicious changes on moles or skin, and for raising the awareness regarding the importance of self-examination in melanoma and skin cancer prevention.
Benefit: The app is designed for patients who want to track changes on skin and moles over time by using photographs