Worried About Skin Cancer? There’s an App for That. – Cancer Defeated

Worried About Skin Cancer? There’s an App for That.

By Lee Euler / March 18, 2012

Welcome to 21st Century Medical Care. . .

Summer’s coming, and with it are the usual warnings to protect yourself from the sun’s dangerous rays.

That’s because skin cancer is not only the most common of all cancers, affecting over two million Americans annually, but it’s also the easiest to cure — as long as it’s diagnosed and treated early. If left untreated, skin cancer means disfigurement or even death.

So there’s certainly a huge benefit to keeping a watchful eye on your moles … but how many people really know what to look for? And how many people check on a regular basis?

Now there’s a 21st Century answer: the ultimate skin-cancer prevention app for your iPhone. Even if you don’t have an iPhone, you and most of us are going to have something like it before long, so keep reading and find out what the medical care of the future is going to be like.

Continued below. . .

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The ultimate skin-cancer prevention app

    Skin Scan, based in Romania, is a startup company that recently came out with an iPhone app aimed at helping people identify skin cancer. The app lets people take pictures of questionable moles and then send the pictures in to the Skin Scan servers.

From there, a proprietary algorithm is used to analyze the fractal-like shapes that occur in human skin. The computer performs calculations to determine whether the shape of the mole is developing normally or whether it has abnormalities that point to a possible melanoma — the deadly form of skin cancer.

The results that get sent back to the user apply visual references to point out abnormalities. They don’t diagnose any kind of condition, but they do rate moles from low-risk to high-risk.

If you keep uploading pictures of the same mole over time, the app tracks changes in the size and shape of your mole to help pinpoint whether you should be worried.

Along with that, the app refers users to doctors near where they live.

The founders of Skin Scan say they want to do one better than just raise the red flag over questionable moles. Co-founder and CEO Victor Anastasiu plans to build an analytics database that uncovers other key issues in skin cancer. For example, the app can use location data submitted by app users to piece together a world map that shows where severe lesions occur most frequently. He hopes such a map can be used to target and treat high-risk areas in specific places around the world.

Over time, the software should be able to use this anonymous location data to create a time-space model of whether skin cancer risk factors in specific locations are getting better or worse.

Improving healthcare, one mole at a time…

    If Skin Scan’s app really takes off, it has the potential to upset the entire system of dermatology as we know it. Through its platform, the software could feasibly connect users with doctors on an exclusively digital basis. The doctors would examine patients’ moles and provide professional insight without the hassle (and cost) of an in-office visit. Office visits would be reserved for only the most serious cases.

The potential money and time savings are enormous, especially since dermatology offices are one of the worst offenders for long waiting lists. Where I live, it takes many months to get a new-patient appointment. My dermatologist will make an exception if you have reason to believe a lesion is cancerous. But how many patients are going to know?

Not having to wait months for an appointment could increase the chances of catching skin cancer while it’s still treatable.

The Skin Scan team includes two dermatologists and two mathematicians employed to refine the algorithm. And it’s important to note that the app doesn’t claim to replace hands-on medical treatment. It just tells you whether you should seek treatment or not.

Not the only health app out there

    All of this mobile technology begs a bigger question: Is it possible to effect real change in the medical system by leveraging the broad accessibility of mobile devices?

The Skin Scan app looks promising, but it’s not without a few risks. For one, there’s the potential problem of confidentiality violations. With the Skin Scan app, you scan a piece of your body and then your location appears on the map on their website. They say user data is anonymous … but it’s not hard to be concerned that your personal data could somehow, someway be traced back to your mobile phone.

Accuracy is an issue as well. Right now, Skin Scan claims about 70 percent accuracy in assessing potentially cancerous moles. Dermatologists run about 85 percent accurate. The more users Skin Scan attracts, the more it can refine its algorithms for accuracy.

Skin Scan’s software can open the door to understanding skin cancer rates across the planet. But that also assumes users across the planet will uniformly buy and use this app. (At present, it’s only iPhone-compatible and costs $4.99. That’s a good deal for a cheap skin-cancer diagnosis — assuming it’s accurate.)

To grow in accuracy, Skin Scan’s iphone test needs to become popular and widely used. They would also have to get feedback from the customer on whether a doctor exam and biopsy confirms or refutes what the Skin Scan’s algorithm found. And I can tell you, that’s going to be hard to do. A large number of customers won’t let Skin Scan know how the story ended.

If you try this service, you should also beware of false negatives, where Skin Scan tells you a mole isn’t a melanoma when, in fact, it is. A complacent customer would likely fail to seek help, having been assured he’s safe.

False negatives are a problem with in-office tests, too, but less so in the case of melanomas. The doctors take biopsies — which are hard on your bank account, or on your insurance company’s bank account — but generally accurate when it comes to skin cancer.

Skin Scan isn’t the only player in this business. In fact, it’s a growth industry.

Another iPhone app, Skin of Mine, claims to assess a wide range of skin diseases, from acne to spider veins to questionable moles. It analyzes and tracks your skin concerns for free and also refers you to a licensed dermatologist you can connect with online.

The Skin of Mine app even lets you select a specific dermatologist or nurse practitioner to diagnose your skin issue. You pay a consultation fee, and then submit your image. Your chosen expert then responds via email with a diagnosis, prescription, and advice within 24 hours. The photos you upload are stored in your online Skin of Mine account.

What all this means is that healthcare through mobile technology may very well alter the medical system as we know it. And there are two ways to take that… Either you can view it as scary healthcare by machine, or you can see it as a way to finally reclaim some control of our healthcare.

The rise of “mHealth” (mobile healthcare)

    Whether or not these specific apps take off, I can’t help wondering if we’ve opened the door to a revolution in medical treatment. On the surface, it’s a simple app that potentially replaces annual dermatologist check-ups — once it’s refined and developed.

What that really means is more prevention, more empowerment for patients, and less control from the medical system.

Until now, individuals with lots of moles were told to take pictures of every mole on their bodies, while including in the shot some type of measuring device for size reference. People with hundreds of moles — who also tend to be at higher risk for skin cancer — find this approach cumbersome and hard to keep up with. This app makes the task easy.

In an industry where productivity is blocked by information collection and transmission hurdles, allowing people to play a greater role in their own healthcare may be the answer.

Forbes.com even stated recently that, “healthcare insurers are using apps to streamline patient-care systems, by connecting with and educating members, and ultimately reining in spiraling costs.”

And a recent report by Juniper Research shows medical app downloads and mobile healthcare will reach 44 million in 2012. By 2016, that number will be 142 million.

This means the government agencies that regulate privacy will be busy stepping up compliance standards that cover mobile security measures and policies, since most of us want to protect our personal health information.

So as the mHealth industry grows, we’re sure to see endless revisions to a whole new crop of app audit standards and security measures, especially if we want improved healthcare that we can still keep confidential. But I wouldn’t count on the government to protect my health data as it flies around the world on the Internet.

Your best protection is to deal with reputable providers, whether remotely on the Internet or in person. Don’t forget, the information you give your doctor’s office or an insurance company all goes into a computer database, too. And even a highly competent and honest provider can get hacked. Ironclad security protection has become a tough thing to execute, these days.

If you’ve got a health problem you really don’t want the world to know about, pay for the treatment yourself, in cash, and tell your doctor not to submit an insurance claim.

Personally, I’m not too worried if someone finds out I have a mole. For other health problems, of course, I might feel different.

Our last issue talked about dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals in just about the last place you’d probably expect. If you missed the article, you can read it right now, just below this.

Are There Cancer-Causing
Chemicals in Your Clothes?

    Most of us put a lot of thought into eating healthy food and breathing clean air, but not a lot of folks worry about healthy clothing. It’s a chilling thought to wonder whether the shirt you’re wearing right now might contain deadly chemicals.

But it’s something you should take notice of since cancer-causing chemicals are found throughout most of the fabrics we buy and wear. Keep reading and I’ll explain what I mean. . .

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Personally, I’m very sensitive to dyes, chemicals, and treated fabrics. I even have white “all cotton” sheets I can’t use because they make me sick. I’m certainly not alone — over a million results pop up on Google when you search “chemical sensitivities to clothing.”

The good news is that it’s easy to fix this problem, once you understand it.

Your chemical-laced clothing

    In a recent study commissioned by Greenpeace International, several major clothing brands were found guilty of using nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in the manufacturing process. This chemical breaks down into toxic nonylphenol (NP), which has hormone-disrupting properties that persist over time and can be hazardous even at low levels.

The clothing brands tested included 14 leading brands like Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Nike, and H&M. The clothing articles that were tested were manufactured in at least 13 different countries. Greenpeace used an independent laboratory to test for the presence of NPEs. Of the 78 articles tested, a full two-thirds (52 items) tested positive for NPEs higher than the regulated limit of detection (1 milligram NPEs/kilogram material).

NPE is actually banned from use in textile production in a lot of countries, including those in the European Union, but regulations are lax in most Asian countries where a lot of global clothing brands source their products. The chemical is most commonly used in the dyeing process.

The fact that NPEs were detected in the fabrics proved they were used during production. And if they were used in production, there’s a good chance they were released into the environment where they’re unable to fully break down. This stuff hangs around for a long time.

That’s bad enough, but on top of that, global exports deliver clothing with residual NPEs to markets where those chemicals are banned in clothing manufacture. Worse, washing these clothing items releases NPEs into water treatment facilities unequipped to handle them. “Treatment” at those facilities generally only speeds up the breakdown of NPEs into toxic NPs. Those NPs end up in aquatic systems, build up in the food chain (fish, for instance), and then come back to us. (If you want to read the full Greenpeace report, go here.)

We know for sure that this increase of hormonal buildup released by chemicals in our environment taxes our bodies in major ways. It may be having an immediate effect on our children, and especially on young girls. Puberty for girls used to begin around age 15 or 16 over a hundred years ago. Now, it starts as early as age nine. The average age of menopause has also been adjusted — now it’s ten to 15 years later than it used to be.

The reasons for ever-earlier puberty are not known for sure. It’s a controversial topic. But NPEs may be a factor.

Not only does early onset of puberty increase a woman’s number of fertile years, it increases her chances of breast cancer.

But it’s not just Greenpeace finding all the bad news. Chinese authorities have also tested for and found cancer-causing textile dyes in clothing manufactured by some popular Chinese brands, including Jeanswest and Baoxinlai (sold both in China and abroad). In this case, the offending toxin is decomposable aromatic amine, a poisonous dye that has been banned since 2006.

This dye cannot be washed out of fabric and is easily absorbed into human skin. With long-term exposure, it can cause cancer.

Wearing scented chemicals
Can damage your health

    The health risks of clothing don’t stop in the manufacturing process. Depending on the laundry products you use, you may be coating your clothes with even more cancer-causing chemicals.

In a study conducted by Anne Steinemann of the University of Washington, there is a sickening cocktail of chemicals that gets emitted through the air vents of clothes dryers. The toxic elements stem from both liquid detergent and perfumed dryer sheets. Steinemann’s analysis found over 25 volatile organic compounds, seven of which are considered hazardous air pollutants, in the dryer vents. Two of those chemicals — acetaldehyde and benzene — are considered carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The fumes alone potentially cause headaches, asthma, and possibly even seizures. Dryer sheets are the worst offenders since their chemical ingredients get heated up and released into the air, posing a respiratory health risk to anyone who breathes the fumes — whether they’re inside or outside your home.

Sustained exposure to the chemicals from dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener may very well have a toxic effect. Both products contain benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), limonene (a known carcinogen), and chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen).

Fabric softeners in particular are designed to stay in your clothes for an extended period of time. This means those chemicals gradually seep out and are either inhaled or get absorbed directly through the skin.

Just the fragrance chemicals alone in these products are extremely toxic, known to cause liver damage and cancer in mammals. These things are only approved for consumer use because the FDA considers them cosmetic products — on the same level with shampoo, deodorants, and creams. The agency claims there are no health risks because those chemicals aren’t absorbed through the skin.

That’s a grossly false belief. For a regulatory agency to say, “There’s no problem! The skin doesn’t absorb a thing!” is the equivalent of claiming all the transdermal patches on the market don’t work. And nowadays, a wide variety of pharmaceuticals are available in transdermal patch form, including nicotine patches for smoking cessation, opioid medications for pain relief, estrogen patches for contraception or menopausal symptoms, and scopolamine for motion sickness.

As I’ve often said, if you depend on these government agencies to look out for you, make sure your insurance is paid up — health and life — because you’re gonna need it. The agencies mostly function to reassure the public that the products of industry are just fine — so you don’t look into the matter too closely yourself. People who do are considered cranks and kooks.

Natural ways to keep poisonous
chemicals out of your clothes

    What we know for sure is that the skin is our largest organ. Our bodies drink in anything we put on it, including chemicals that linger on and in our clothing.

A lot of factors are contributing to this poison problem in our clothes, from lax regulation in the clothing manufacturing process to lack of education regarding laundry products. But at least there are a few things we can do about it.

As far as avoiding clothes that were mixed with toxins in the manufacturing process, your best bet is to either buy organic clothing or buy clothes manufactured in the U.S. or the E.U.

And the laundry product issue is really a good reminder not to focus all our attention on pollution from cars and industry. A lot of it happens right in our own homes.

On the brighter side, plenty of “green” companies are now coming out with safer fabric softeners. Seventh Generation and Ecover both have options that rely on vegetable products and natural essential oils. There’s also Maddocks’ Static Eliminator, a non-toxic, hypoallergenic reusable dryer sheet made out of a proprietary, chemical-free polynylon.

A word of warning: I find I have a bad reaction to a lot of the “green” laundry products found in health food stores. One problem is the mania for scenting everything. Try them out carefully and observe your own symptoms. Headaches, muscles aches, skin problems or respiratory problems may be caused by these products.

Another great alternative to the laundry product problem is to use “homemade” fabric softener. National Geographic’s Green Guide recommends adding either a quarter cup of baking soda or a quarter cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle. Either one will soften clothes, while the latter will also address static cling (but don’t mix either one with bleach since the resulting chemical reactions could cause noxious fumes).

Or, you could take several strips of an old cotton shirt or pillowcase and soak them in a jar of vinegar combined with an essential oil, like eucalyptus. Add a strip to every load you toss in the dryer. Or just put the vinegar mixture in a spray bottle and spray the wet laundry.

I haven’t tried baking soda or white vinegar in my wash — if you have, drop me a line at our letters to the editor address: newsletter@cancerdefeated.com

And of course, the best “old-fashioned” solution to keeping chemicals out of your clothes is drying them outside on a clothes line. Let the fresh air and sunshine do all the work. Even here, alas, I have to introduce a word of caution: quite a bit of pollen can settle on clothes hanging outside. So if you have allergies you may need to be alert to the problem.

Kindest regards,

Lee Euler Publisher

References from first article

“Check your skin for a melanoma? Yes, there’s an app for that too,” by Mike Butcher for TechCrunch. June 27 2011.

“If You Can Spot It You Can Stop It: Why Self-Exams are So Important.”

Skin of Mine, beta. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/skin-of-mine/id432628083?mt=8

“Skin Scan for iPhone checks your moles for signs of skin cancer,” by Martin Bryant for The Next Web. 21st June 2011.

“Skin Scan – The Most Accurate Skin Cancer Detector on iPhone,” By Skin Scan

“Skin Scan wants to fight cancer using iPhones and big data,” by Derrick Harris, GigaOM.

“The Rise of the Healthcare App Industry,” by Thu Pham.

“This iPhone App Scans Skin For Melanoma,” by Alyson Shontell for Business Insider.

References from second article

“Cancer-causing dyes in Chinese clothes.” Beijing. IBN Live. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/cancercausing-dyes-in-chinese-

“‘Cancer risk’ of perfumed products that go in your tumble-dryer as chemicals are found in air from vents.” By James Tozer, Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2029873/Cancer-risk-

“Death by fashion: is your wardrobe poisoning the world’s water supply?” by Gervase Poulden, the Ecologist. http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/clothing/1028204/death_by_fashion

“Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry | Unraveling the toxic trail from pipes to products.” Greenpeace.” http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/toxics

“Ditch the Dryer Sheets: Spray-Fresh DIY Fabric Softener.” by Crunchy Betty. http://www.crunchybetty.com/ditch-the-dryer-sheets-diy-fabric-softener

“‘Greener’ Laundry by the Load: Fabric Softener versus Dryer Sheets.” Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=greener-laundry

“Greenpeace finds highly toxic chemicals in branded clothing.” By Christina Luisa, Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/033436_toxic_chemicals_clothing.html

“Toxic Fashion: Your Clothes May Cause Cancer.” City Weekend Blog. http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/articles/blogs-beijing/

“Warning: Many dryer sheets contain cancer causing chemicals.” By Mike Adams, Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/002693_personal_care_products_dryer_sheets.html

About the author

Lee Euler

Hi I'm Lee Euler, I’ve spent over a decade investigating every possible way a person can beat cancer. In fact, our commitment to defeating cancer has made us the world’s #1 publisher of information about Alternative Cancer Treatments -- with over 20 books and 700 newsletters on the subject. If you haven't heard about all your cancer options, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss even one answer to this terrible disease, then join our newsletter. When you do, I'll keep you informed each week about the hundreds of alternative cancer treatments that people are using to cure cancer all over the world.

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