Melanoma is one of New Zealand's biggest killers, and heading into the summer season mole checks are more important than ever.
Melanoma Awareness Week has kicked off this week, and a new smartphone app designed to give Kiwis access to a dermatologist within 72 hours has been launched to help curb the effects of the deadly cancer.
The app, available on Android and iPhone, has been called the first of its kind - it uses specialists rather than a computer algorithm to help with early skin cancer detection.
The app works by allowing users to take a photo or a mole or skin condition with their device. The photo is then sent to a NZ-registered dermatologist or skin cancer doctor and within 72 hours, the doctor will provide a response and recommendation.
Already the app has detected two cases of early melanoma and skin cancer during the final testing stages.
“In both cases, users took a photo of a mole with the app and a NZ dermatologist discovered they had early stage skin cancer. This is never good news, but early detection is crucial to your chances of beating skin cancer,” says Hayden Laird, co-founder of Firstcheck, the app's developer.
“We already have dermatologists and skin cancer doctors working with the app in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch with more being signed up by the day – there’s nothing else like this, it’s the first of its kind in New Zealand,” he continues.
Laird developed the app by working with Frank Lachmann, an IT business consultant. The app follows teledermatology guidelines, including magnified photos and skin condition information.
The app has received support from Melanoma New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and New Zealand dermatologists.
“It’s promising to see the power of technology advancing to promote early detection of melanoma. This is not a substitute for a face-to-face visit with your doctor, but it is an encouraging tool for the timely review of a lesion of concern and creating your own health records for tracking change,” concludes Melanoma New Zealand CEO Linda Flay.
The app is free to download. Each Firstcheck consultation will also contribute 50 cents to Melanoma New Zealand. Find out more at Firstcheck.co.nz.