Tuesday, 10 December 2019 12:35

AI-powered skin mapping app helps skin cancer detection

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AI-powered skin mapping app helps skin cancer detection Image David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Danish company Miiskin has developed AI-powered skin mapping technology normally used by clinicians to detect early warning signs of melanoma.

Introduction of the app comes as research, commissioned by Miiskin and undertaken by YouGov Plc with 1,066 adults aged 18+ across Australia, has found that more than 1 in 5 Australians aren’t checking their body for the most common sign of melanoma.

“As a country with one of the highest levels of skin cancer in the world, the importance of self-examination is generally well understood in Australia – and consumer tech to support this is becoming widely used,” said Jon Friis, founder of Miiskin.

“However, in adults, more than 70% of melanomas show up as new marks or moles on the skin, not as changes to a previously existing mole.

“Previously larger scale skin mapping for the identification of new moles and other marks has not been accessible for the public to use themselves. We’ve developed the technology to support this important element of self-checking, alongside tracking of individual moles.”

In what Miiskin claims as a consumer first, the skin mapping app allows users to keep a photographic record of their skin to monitor changes, and is designed to help alert adults to new moles and marks on their skin.

According to Miiskin Australians are already turning to technology as part of their self-examination routine, with an estimated 2.1 million Australians now using a smartphone app to keep track of changes to their skin over time.

However, Miiskin says a fifth (22%) of people don't check anywhere on their body for new moles or marks, despite it being the one of the most common melanoma warnings.

Miiskin says this is the first time that wide-area skin mapping has been globally available on a consumer health app, and the technology is an app-light version for patients of total body photography, which helps doctors to spot abnormalities.

The app uses artificial intelligence to digitally map out the skin to make it easier for its users to detect new moles, freckles and other marks and, according to Miiskin, the technology makes it easier for the 41% of Australians who admitted that they don’t know exactly how many moles they have, to keep track of their skin.

Developed in collaboration with the head of AI and medical computer imaging at the University of Copenhagen, the app allows patients to capture and track wide-area images of their back – a part of the body that Miiskin says 32% of Australians admit they do not check thoroughly.

“Latest government statistics show a predicted 35% increase in deaths from melanoma skin cancer in Australia from 2016 to 2019. There are more than 12,000 new cases of melanoma in Australia a year– with an estimated 8,000 (70%) of these to have first shown as new moles or marks,” Miiskin notes.

Miiskin cites use of the skin mapping app by 52-year old Ian Warrener from Kununurra, Western Australia, who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his legs two years ago after going for a health check.

Miiskin says that, living in a rural area, Ian Warrener had to travel 3,000 km to his nearest skin clinic for treatment.

“Ian is now high-risk for getting melanoma again, so has to pay close attention to his skin, but his location makes it difficult to travel thousands of kilometres to a skin clinic for a routine check-up,” Miiskin says.

“Ian started using the Miiskin app to track his skin at home. He said: “The app isn’t a substitute for visiting a doctor, it just means that I can keep my own records of any new changes to my skin and seek medical advice if I spot anything worrying”.

“Before I was diagnosed I wasn’t really aware of the signs of skin cancer. Now with the Miiskin app I have a better chance to keep one step ahead of the cancer.”

Miiskin says it supports the work of the British Skin Foundation and other international charities to help raise awareness of the importance of self-examination of the skin, and its platform was created to “help people identify changes in their skin and moles, with reminders to routinely check skin and the types of things to look for”.

Dr Anton Alexandroff, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, said: “Patients often look for changes to existing moles but can be unaware they should also check for new moles or marks on their skin”.

“With skin mapping technology historically associated with a clinical setting, it hasn’t previously been widely accessible for patients to use themselves. Bringing this kind of technology to patients can help raise awareness of the importance of regularly checking your own skin for changes and alerts adults to the potential significance of new moles or marks.”

Miiskin says its app has received 450,000 downloads globally and 31,500 in Australia, but cautions that its app does not try to diagnose skin cancer or tell users that they are at risk or not - and that people who spot changes are encouraged to seek advice from their GP or another medical professional.

To view melanoma of the skin statistics for Australia click here.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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