A key issue facing health professionals today is spotting cancer before it develops and spreads. Recently we saw the invention of new camera technology boasting a throughput of 100,000 cells per second and a false-positive rate of one in a million – quite different to a 5 megapixel phone camera.
Still, professionals in the Skin Scan team haven’t let the numbers put them off. The Romanian startup designers have produced an app which functions on nothing more than the camera from an iPhone and a clever little splash of mathematics.
What can the app do?
Skin Scan allows the user to take a picture of any suspicious or concerning moles or skin imperfections and upload it to the app – at which point a mathematical algorithm calculates the fractal dimensions of the imperfection and surrounding skin to determine differences in skin colour, texture and growth patterns. From here, it then identifies abnormal development and notifies the user of possible health risks by ranking them as either ‘low risk’, ‘medium risk’ or ‘high risk’. It even uses Google Maps to point you in the direction of your nearest health clinic.
Can we trust it?
When something as important as cancer is concerned, putting your faith in a $4.99 app might seem like a little bit of a stretch. Still, reviews from doctors are good and a number claim that not only does the app employ similar (though admittedly less sophisticated) technology to monitor skin, but it has also been consistent with their findings using other methods.
That said, the team are quick to say that their app should by no means replace a trip to the doctors, and is ‘not intended to substitute for professional medical advice’. The purpose of the app then, is to ‘help people be more self-dependant’, and so long as we don’t take the readings as scientific fact then it’s certainly a credible app.
Will we ever see it on any other platforms?
The Skin Scan team say that they intend on making the data produced by their app available to doctors, and that they do have plans to produce a version compatible with other operating systems.
An interesting feature of the app is that it pinpoints the locations of low, medium and high risk users on a world map on their website, and once the technology is more freely available it might be an intriguing way of loosely identifying cancer growth trends.
It’s certainly not perfect but it’s an interesting new development and might be worth a go – so long as you don’t take it as gospel.
Rob likes to write about gadgets and technology for DirectSight – a leading supplier of cheap prescription glasses.