Skincare phone app can detect dangerous moles, UV rays

Apps that prompt you to take photos of your skin like Mole Mapper, developed by Oregon Health & Science University, can help track mole changes over time.

Skin cancer will hit one in five Americans in their lifetime. But if it's detected early, it's almost always curable.

In today's tech-obsessed world, new smartphone applications claim to detect cancerous moles and warn you about dangerous UV rays.

"There are new apps available that can actually give us very helpful and personalized information regarding our level of risk, regarding our UV exposure," says Dr. Whitney Bowe of Advanced Dermatology.

Apps that prompt you to take photos of your skin like Mole Mapper, developed by Oregon Health & Science University, can help track mole changes over time.

"Some of these apps also allow you to play back images of a particular mole, so we're looking for a change, and if you see a change in that mole, those apps can actually be helpful with regards showing you whether there is indeed a change," Dr. Bowe explains.

Apps like My Skin Pal even sends you reminders when a mole hasn't been scanned in a while. Plus, you can share your photo history with a dermatologist in your area.

"Maybe you can send a picture of your skin condition over to a real, live dermatologist who can at least give you some initial feedback regarding whether this is a true emergency," Dr. Bowe says.

Exposure to UV rays is one of the major causes of skin cancer. Tools that monitor your UV exposure like My UV Patch help remind you when to apply sunscreen or get into some shade.

The thin sticker-like tattoo goes on your body and collects the user's UV exposure throughout the day. It sends the data to a companion app, giving users real-time feedback on their sun ray risk.

"Then your phone can say, 'Hey, you're being exposed to a tremendous amount of UV rays right now,' and you can get out of the sun," Dr. Bowe says.

June, a UV monitoring wristband and app, mixes function with fashion. The jewel-inspired device can be worn as a brooch or bracelet, and tracks UV intensity in real time. It also provides personalized tips on how to protect your skin, like when it's time to apply SPF,  what level to use or if you need sunglasses or a hat.

But Dr. Bowe warns that no app should replace your annual skin check with a dermatologist

"The doctor can look at you, tackle your personal history, even palpate and feel the lesions, and look at them up close with fancy instrumentation, those are the kinds of interactions that you simply can't replace right now with apps," she says.


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