When Hayden Laird's grandfather was diagnosed with skin cancer he and his family were unsurprisingly shocked.
However while the diagnosis caused great distress, it did give Mr Laird an idea of how people could potentially detect melanomas earlier.
Mr Laird designed an app where users can check themselves from the comfort of their own home.
Firstcheck allows users to take photos of moles, spots and lesions to send off to a skin specialist, who determines if they are anything to be worried about. It has already had 30,000 people use it since it launched in Australia last year.
"Doctors are already using this technique in clinic (using smartphones to take photos of moles) we are just making referral software more widely available," app CEO Mr Laird told nine.com.au.
"Cell-phones take great photos nowadays, they are so clear, and the doctor on the other end of the app can always ask for different angles, or further photos if they aren't happy with what you've provided."
The app is also used with a specialised lens that users can attach to their smartphone to capture 20x magnified images.
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The former lawyer said his grandfather's diagnosis opened his eyes for the need for more ways of picking up suspect spots and lesions earlier.
"The penny dropped," Mr Laird said.
"A total of 85 percent of skin cancer is detected in the home, and we're constantly reminded that we're in charge of staying on top of skin changes - which really rams home how important tools like this are.
"The gold standard of course if to have a full body check with a specialist in clinic. But the majority just aren't doing it. So if technology can play a role in bridging that gap…I mean the take-up in our app is testament to that."
Research from TAL reinforces Australians reluctance to spotlight the subject, with 45 percent of people unaware of the high incidence rates of skin cancer in Australia, a survey found.
Only 36 percent of respondents admitted to having had a check in the past 12 months.
One of the app's biggest success stories is a young mother from Wellington, New Zealand – where the app has been in operation since November 2016 – who says its detection of skin cancer saved her life.
Upon its introduction into Australia four months later, skin cancer was detected on a Sydney man David Criniti on the app's third screening.
A result which shocked even the app maker himself.
"I mean what are the chances," Mr Laird said.
But the truth is, the chances are very high.
Two in three Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, according to Cancer Council research.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows last year in Australia there were 750,000 people diagnosed with skin cancer - and 13,941 people diagnosed with melanoma, with 1839 deaths.
The prediction for 2018 is 14,320 people being diagnosed
But the message doesn't appear to be sinking in, with recent Cancer Council research revealing 38-per-cent of teens admit to getting a tan.
CHECK IS BEST
While the Cancer Council said anything that encourages users to check their skin was a good thing, it warns diagnostic tools such as apps have limitations.
"Relying on an individual to take pictures themselves could present difficulties in capturing moles in difficult to see positions, such as the back," Council's Skin Cancer Committee chair Heather Walker said.
She suggests more evidence of its effectiveness is needed, before they [Cancer Council] could recommend such a tool.
"No other examination or technology has been proven to reduce your risk of skin cancer or promote better early detection," Ms Walker said.
However, Firstcheck does have the backing of other health professionals; including the Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and the Skinspots Skin Cancer clinic and The Skin Clinic in New Zealand.
The app is currently only being used in New Zealand and Australia - and Mr Laird has no plans to expand just yet.
"I think there's a reason the idea for this app was conceived in this part of the world, we have such a need here," Mr Laird said.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018
Source : https://www.9news.com.au/national/2018/12/06/19/34/firstcheck-skin-cancer-app-australia-melanoma-summer2554