This algorithm could one day save your life


Your smartphone could soon help you identify or rule out skin cancer without a trip to the dermatologist.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It affects people of all races, but those with light skin who get a sunburn easily have an elevated risk.

Read more: Skin cancer warnings: 3 lessons from a melanoma survivor

Your smartphone could be the future of skin cancer detection

Dermatologists recommend that Americans get a yearly skin exam, though people in the high risk category may go more often.

If your doctor finds anything suspicious, they may recommend a shave excision. The dermatologist uses a sharp razor to remove the growth (such as a mole) and sends it to a laboratory for testing.

Depending on your insurance, you may owe no more than your office visit copay.

Now, a 26-year-old developer has come up with an artificial intelligence algorithm using Google’s image search that can diagnose skin cancer as accurately as a group of 21 dermatologists, Bloomberg reports.

Developer Brett Kuprel, who has no background in dermatology, hopes people will be able to use their phones to screen for cancer.

We are already seeing movement in that direction. FirstDerm is an app where you take a picture of your skin condition with your phone and send it to a dermatologist who will review it for a fee, usually around $40.

You can also search your app store and find a number of free apps to help you track and monitor your moles.


However, existing apps do not replace regular visits to your dermatologist. Early detection of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is key to saving lives.

Here are the ABCDE signs of melanoma:

A = Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half
B = Border: Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border
C = Color: Varied from one area to another
D = Diameter: Greater than the size of a pencil eraser
E = Evolving: Changing in size, shape or color

Additionally, if you see a spot on your skin that’s different from others, changes, itches or bleeds, make an appointment to see your dermatologist right away.

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