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The Smartphone App that Could Save Your Life


When I was younger, I thought I couldn't sunburn because I'm Hispanic and tan easily. As long as I applied sunscreen in the morning, I was safe to lounge around basking under the sun all day. One seriously painful sunburn scare when I was 12 (I couldn't sleep on my back for weeks) forced me to grow up and realize that sun damage didn't care that I wanted a tan because I thought it looked pretty or that I wanted to hang out in the sun for just "five more minutes" to reach that perfect golden-brown hue. Then, when I was 16, I had a mole removed from my elbow. Although the mole wasn't cancerous, it was irregular in size, larger than 6 millimeters in diameter, and uneven in color distribution—all of which are common signs of early melanoma, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Now, instead of being "goodish" about sun protection, I try to be diligent about it. Still, melanoma has been on the rise in the United States for 40 years and is the No. 1 cancer in adults aged 24 to 29. That's why I was intrigued to hear about Mole Detective, a new smartphone app designed to help people track their moles. The app was created by a young woman named Kristi Zuhlke, whose fiancé was diagnosed with melanoma at 27. Despite undergoing rounds of Interferon treatments and having several moles removed during the past 10 years, her fiancé still must visit his dermatologist every six months.

“He would ask me if any moles had changed, which is a sign of melanoma. I couldn’t remember what they looked like a month ago, let alone remember where I put my keys that morning," Zuhlke says. "I needed a tool that would help me keep track, so I created Mole Detective."

The app uses the widely practiced ABCDE method. Simply snap a photo of a suspicious mole, and the app will measure the asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution of the mole. All you have to do is snap a photo each month, and the app tracks any changes in your mole and helps you understand any potential danger. The app is not intended to act as a replacement to your doctor; rather, it's designed to help you take better care of yourself by providing an easy way to track changes in your body that you might otherwise miss.

While the app is incompatible with my phone (alas, I have a Blackberry), it is available in the iTunes app store and on the Android market. And since today is Melanoma Monday, why not check it out? You may not have time to get to the doctor today, but I know you have time to check your smartphone! It can't hurt—and it just might save your life!


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