Charity Melanoma UK, based in Liverpool, says thousands of skin cancer cases have been missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is using digital technology to improve detection. Tony McDonough reports
A Liverpool skin cancer charity says new research shows thousands of melanoma cases have been missed in the UK because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now Melanoma UK is teaming up with health technology company SkinVision to provide a service that helps people perform regular skin checks and flags up potential cancers to the attention of healthcare professionals.
A global survey of more than 700 dermatologists, conducted by the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy, has revealed the shocking impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the detection of melanoma skin cancer.
Compared to a normal year of performing patient skin examinations, dermatologists estimate that one fifth (21%) of melanomas may have gone undiagnosed in 2020, with one third (33.6%) of dermatological appointments missed due to the pandemic. Experts estimate 3,735 melanomas went undetected in the UK in 2020.
As part of its ‘LOOK UP’ campaign, the Global Coalition is also offering two digital reminder tools to encourage people to check their skin. SkinVision raises awareness of skin cancer by providing a smartphone-based regulated medical device to help individuals assess their risk and get to the doctor in time.
Certified by the British Standards Institute, the SkinVision application uses artificial intelligence to compare a user’s skin spots with millions of images of known skin cancers to provide a risk score.
Users receiving a high-risk score through the SkinVision Smartcheck also have their result reviewed by a clinician before being encouraged to contact their local healthcare professional for treatment.
The app demonstrated a sensitivity rate of 95.1% and specificity rate of 78.3% in the most recent peer reviewed clinical trial. There are presently over 190,000 SkinVision users in the UK.
The new SkinVision Melanoma UK service will prompt users to make regular skin checks a habit, in line with the ongoing ‘LOOK UP’ campaign. In app reminders, body mapping and 95% accurate AI smartcheck assessments help people to seek care when they need it.
Melanoma skin cancer sufferers can get free annual licences through Melanoma UK. In addition, SkinVision will be discounting annual Skinhealth programmes to £24.99 until the end of March, available on both iPhone and Android devices with the promo code ‘lookup’.
As the SkinVision charity of choice, a donation will be made to Melanoma UK for every UK licence purchased to further other awareness campaigns.
Melanoma UK’s corporate partnership director, Diane Cannon, said: “The lockdowns that have been necessary during the COVID crisis, coupled with the additional strain on healthcare systems, have led to a worrying proportion of professional skin checks being missed.
“With this trend set to continue until we all emerge from the pandemic, it has never been more important for people to check their own skin for melanoma. In our fight against skin cancer, early detection is critical.
“Embracing the use of technology through our partnership with SkinVision, we can encourage everybody to find just 10 minutes a month and make a skin self-examination part of their regular routine. Everyone needs this app – it could save your life.”