Mole mapper app could be a lifesaver in detecting skin cancer

You can do a lot with a smartphone app, and now there's one that can help you and your doctor, track the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma.

It's called the "Mole Mapper," and it's a free app available for iPhone.

Dr. Sancy Leachman, a dermatology professor at Oregon Health and Science University, is spearheading the use of the app, which does exactly as the name describes: maps moles and spots on your body.

"We are taking pictures of the body and the moles in those body regions and following them over time to see if they're changing," Leachman said. "And the idea is that really if you can put this power in the hands of every individual who has a smart phone with a camera, then you're reaching an enormous number of people that way."

The mole mapper also reminds you to re-check yourself regularly. When you take a picture, you use an object like a coin to reference the spot, so that the size and shape of the mole can be measured.

And it creates an easy-to-see record so your doctor can track whether a suspicious spot is changing.

"The earlier we catch it, the better off that patient is. The later we catch it, the more life-threatening that melanoma is. Period," Leachman said.

Researchers hope one day the app will be able to tell you when to head back to the doctor's office to possibly have the mole removed.

"If they have a melanoma and they actually pay attention, that will change, " Leachman said. "By definition, a melanoma is growing. It's a cancer. It's growing out of control."

The app will also gather data from around the country to help melanoma researchers, and they hope it will ultimately help save lives -- especially those at risk for the deadliest form of skin cancer.
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