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Smartphone cameras used to diagnose skin cancer

Posted on the 13th June 2023

Smartphones Cancer Lens

Tens of thousands of skin cancer patients could receive a faster diagnosis thanks to a smartphone camera device.

The dermatoscope lens, which is the size of a 50p coin, can attach to standard smartphones and take high-res photos of skin legions, spots, and moles.

The ‘teledermatology’ service is currently being used in 15% of NHS England trusts offering dermatology services, and is set to be introduced across the country in community diagnostic centres by July.

It is hoped the technology will enable specialist doctors to double the number of patient consultations they can carry out in a day, as well as enabling GPs in rural areas to fast-track reviews and specialist appointments for their patients.

The NHS is also trialling additional artificial intelligence tools that could assess the presence of skin cancer.

Deep Ensemble for the Recognition of Malignancy (DERM) technology, a magnifying lens that uses AI to assess a patient’s skin lesions for cancer instantaneously, is currently the only dedicated technology marked as an AI medical device in the UK.

DERM is being trialled alongside traditional doctor-led examinations to determine whether it reaches the same conclusions. According to NHS officials, the device helped avoid 10,000 unnecessary in-person appointments during an earlier testing phase.

NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard says the new technology is just one example of the diagnostic capabilities represented by NHS innovation. “There is no denying that increased demand has placed huge pressure on services, but championing the use of digital technology and new ways of working is key to reducing waits and is exactly why we are accelerating the use of teledermatology – it is a small piece of kit that has the potential to speed up diagnosis and treatment for tens of thousands with skin cancer.”

The news comes as a survey conducted on behalf of King Edward VII’s Hospital in London found that 22% of British adults do not wear suncream.

Last month, a leading melanoma charity called for suncream to be VAT-free, citing a correlation between skin cancer and poverty. 1 in 10 people surveyed say they do not use suncream because of the cost.

In 2022, the number of people referred for skin cancer checks increased 9% from the previous year, with 600,000 references being made and 56,000 skin cancer patients receiving treatment.

Related: UK cancer cases to increase by a third by 2040

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