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May 09, 2014 10:05 AM EDT

Houston Professor Designs App for Early Detection of Skin Cancer

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A University of Houston professor has designed and developed an iPhone app for easy and economical detection of skin cancer.

Users need to just click a photo of a suspicious mole or lesion with their phone and use an embedded software program to determine whether the mysterious mark is likely to turn cancerous. If the lesion is suspected to be cancerous, users are recommended a follow-up.

George Zouridakis, professor of engineering technology and the inventor behind the "DermoScreen" app said that the main aim of developing the app is to offer quick screening facilities in rural areas or in the developing world lacking medical care and specialists. The current screening process is sometimes prolonged and complicated.

Zouridakis said that the app accurately detected skin cancers 85 percent of the time during the testing phase. The percentage was similar to that of dermatologists and more accurate than primary care physicians.

Dr. Ana Ciurea, assistant professor of dermatology at MD Anderson, said that the project is currently in its early stages.

"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. 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," Ciurea said in astatement.  

 "DermoScreen" is also being tested for other diagnostic uses like screening for Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating bacterial disease, in Africa.

Doctors warn people to be aware of any unusual moles and urge them to make early appointments with physicians.

According to National Cancer Institute, there are several factors that trigger the development of skin cancer - exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, skin sensitivity to UV radiation (invisible rays that are part of the energy from the sun), burns, scars on the skin, weak immune system, past exposure to radiation therapy, and chronic skin diseases like lupus.

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