09/05/2014 11:24 BST | Updated 09/05/2014 11:59 BST

Dermoscan: This App Can Detect Skin Cancer

There are many health apps which claim to be able to save your life.

This might be the first that can actually deliver.

'Dermoscan' is a new app which can accurately investigate suspicious moles and lesions, and tell you whether they are likely to develop into skin cancer.

The app, developed at the University of Houston, has about an 85% accuracy rate, which is better than more primary care physicians and on a par with specialists.

The only downside? You have to use it with a special magnifying lens attachment… which costs about $500.


But the app is rapidly improving says Professor George Zouridakis, who has worked on the idea since 2005. And cheaper attachments could soon be developed which could get the tech in the hands of more people - including the developing world.

Zouridakis said that before that happens the app will have to improve its accuracy rate, and learn to deliver fewer 'false negative' results.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is launching a bigger test of the idea, while the National Institutes of Health has provided a $412,500 grant to test its ability to detect the Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating bacteria found in rural sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr.Ana Ciurea, assistant professor of dermatology at MD Anderson, said hopes are high for the future.

"Our research with Dr. Zouridakis on his promising iPhone app will focus on evaluating its use for risk assessment and as a screening tool for early detection of melanomas," she said. "We are in early stages of planning and approval for this project, but such an application, if validated, has the potential for widespread use to ultimately improve patient care."