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12-05-2011 | Article

Mobile phone technology enhances skin cancer screening


Free abstract

MedWire News: Advances in mobile phone technology could help to improve skin cancer screening, say researchers who found that photos taken using such devices could be used by doctors to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous moles.

"Dermatologists are in short supply and geographically maldistributed thereby creating a lack of access to care," note Rainer Hofmann-Wellenhof and colleagues from the Medical University of Graz in Austria.

"Teledermatology, and, in particular mobile teledermatology, has the potential to bridge this gap in access because the rapid advancement of technologies has made cost-effective consultancy and support available for primary care doctors."

The team took up to three clinical images, using a mobile phone camera, and three dermoscopic images, using a special dermatoscope, of113 skin tumors from 88 patients.

These images, along with clinical information, were then teletransmitted to dermatologists and the diagnoses made compared with those following face-to-face examinations.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, showed that only 104 of the 113 skin tumors from 80 of 88 patients could be evaluated using the teledermatology method.

But the researchers note that this was mainly due to the poor quality of dermoscopic, rather than mobile phone, images.

Of the 104 tumors that could be evaluated, the detailed diagnoses that were made were very similar to those made through face-to-face examinations, however.

Again, diagnoses made using mobile phone images were more accurate than those using dermoscopy images, with 88 and 82 diagnoses in agreement with face-to-face diagnoses, respectively.

"Without considering the cases that were missed because of poor quality of dermoscopic images, both methods - clinical image tele-evaluation and teledermoscopy - showed excellent and equally high concordance rates with gold standard [face-to-face examinations] in distinguishing between benign and malignant skin tumors," say the researchers.

"Thus, we suggest that management decisions resulting from these evaluation methods could also be adequate in providing proper patient management."

They add that "as most people presently own a mobile phone, the majority of which have a built-in camera, this may present an affordable approach towards the empowerment of individuals in adopting an active role in managing their own health status in order to facilitate early diagnosis of diseases."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lucy Piper