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This App May Detect Skin Cancer Better Than Your Doc

The DermoScan tool may also detect a flesh-eating bacteria.

A smartphone app developed at the University of Houston can evaluate suspicious moles and lesions to determine whether they’re likely cancerous, possibly more accurately than some doctors.

The app is paired with a “dermoscope attachment,” a particular type of magnifying lens that costs around $500.

Initial testing found the DermoScan tool was accurate in spotting skin cancer roughly 85 percent of the time, on par with dermatologists and better than primary care physicians, according to a news release from the University on Tuesday.

Further testing is necessary, however. The possibility of providing false negatives would present real dangers for patients who might have otherwise sought further care. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is just getting started on a more thorough evaluation.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health has provided a more than $400,000 grant to test the software and attachment’s ability to screen for Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating bacteria affecting rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

George Zouridakis, a professor of engineering technology at the University of Houston, has been developing the computer vision technology since 2005.

The hope is the tool could provide initial screening in rural or developing areas that lack easy access to specialists. When the app determines high risks of cancer or infections, patients would be referred for follow-up evaluations.

It’s one of various emerging tools that piggyback on the computing power packed into smartphones for medical purposes, including CellScope’s otoscope for ear evaluations and the Peek system for eye exams.

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