This content was created on behalf of Miiskin — A proud sponsor of Dermnet NZ. Medically reviewed by Dr Amanda Oakley. August 2018.
Melanoma survival rates are dramatically improved if a melanoma is detected early, especially when the malignant cells are confined to the tissue of origin — called melanoma in situ or level 1 melanoma. When melanomas are not caught early, and have invaded into the deeper layers of the skin, the survival rates drop .
Many suspicious lesions that turn out to be melanomas are initially identified by the patient , so skin self-examination can contribute to early detection. It follows that encouraging skin self-examination and facilitating more effective skin self-examination are both strategies likely to assist in early detection of melanoma.
The majority of moles, spots and bumps on the skin are harmless, but it is not always the case. As well as looking out for any “ugly duckling” that stands out from other moles, people are advised to look for changes in their existing moles and also be aware if any new spots appear within previously normal skin. In adults, 71% of melanomas are new lesions .
In order to monitor for changes over time, taking photos of skin and moles is recommended by many organisations and credible resources [4–8]. Photographs record current and new moles so that changes can be more easily detected. Photographs of a wider area of the skin can also assist in the detection of new spots.
The Melanoma Institute Australia recommends “The best way to monitor changes on your skin is by taking photographs every few months and comparing them to identify any changes. React quickly if you see something growing and/or changing .”
Miiskin (miiskin.com) has created an app to help consumers monitor their skin for changes over time. Miiskin has recently become the first app to receive independent dermatological accreditation from the Skin Health Alliance. The app helps its users keep track of individual moles with close-up photographs over time. As part of its premium subscription, it also helps its users monitor their skin as a whole to keep an eye out for new spots. This can be especially useful on a hard-to-see area like the back, although help will be needed to photograph this part of the body.
The Miiskin app is free for the basic version. The premium version of the app costs US$25 per year and it comes with a 30-day free trial for its users to try it out before they are charged anything.
Read more about the Miiskin app here.
For a diagnosis — see the doctor.
Home photo-monitoring of skin and moles should not replace a visit to the doctor.
Even though some research  has showed promising results with algorithms for melanoma risk assessments of moles when pictures are taken in clinical contexts, there is still a long way to go before consumers can get a diagnosis or even an adequate automatic risk assessment through a smartphone.
The British Association of Dermatologists released a press release in July 2017 stating that apps that aim to detect or diagnose lesions based on smartphone photos should be treated with caution .
Teledermatology services have shown more promising results in real-life settings, and can be as good as an in-person examination by a specialist — when the total body examination and lesion selection is initially undertaken by a trained and experienced practitioner .
The Melanoma Risk Predictor, developed by Australian researchers (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute) in the Qskin — Sun and Healthy study , represents a useful way to take advantage of technology to help users understand their overall risk of melanoma. Note that the results cannot be guaranteed for non-Australians.
The Melanoma Risk Predictor can be accessed within the Miiskin app. It is currently available in the app to all English speaking countries; the Risk Predictor itself is only available in English.
There is general evidence  that smartphone apps have been well received by users when implemented in health interventions in other areas.
When it comes to skin self-examinations, apps like Miiskin have also been positively received by users and professionals because of their usefulness in helping users take pictures of their skin on a regular basis.
Besides helping its users photograph their skin, a bespoke smartphone app can insert a layer of privacy and security around the user’s photos so they aren’t mixed up with other general photographs such as holiday pictures or are lost.
Apps may also help skin self examinations by providing a digital mole map to pinpoint the location of the lesions that have been photographed.
Some apps can be used to set reminders via push messages for the next skin self-examination.
In addition, apps are able to assist the user in comparing photographs over time by allowing side-by-side viewing and parallel manipulation of the images. This may make it easier for the user to identify differences between photos such as the appearance of a new mole, or a change to an existing mole.
Smartphone apps may also provide general education and information, so people can easily educate themselves about melanoma and examining their skin.
If patients wish to try Miiskin, they can find the app in the App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android phones. The basic features of Miiskin are free and patients also get a 30-day free trial to try out the premium version. Find out more about the Miiskin app at miiskin.com.
Of course, Miiskin is very clear that the app does not provide any diagnoses or risk assessments on the photographs.
Miiskin are happy to provide dermatologists and other healthcare professionals with leaflets for use with their patients. The leaflets help educate patients about primary and secondary prevention of skin cancer and also describe how Miiskin can help them keep track of changes on their skin. They can be provided in a number of languages if this is required.
To request leaflets or to let us know what you think about Miiskin, please email [email protected].
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DermNet NZ does not provide an online consultation service. If you have any concerns with your skin or its treatment, see a dermatologist for advice.