A Netherlands-based company has secured more than $3 million in funding to further develop and market an app that analyzes photographs of moles for evidence of melanoma.
Cancer-detecting apps haven't fared well in the U.S., and SkinVision's app currently isn't available here (though it was part of a critical UPMC analysis in 2013). But the company has seen success in Europe and Australia since launching in 2011, and officials say the latest funding will help them expand the market.
The app was developed by researchers at Romania's University of Bucharest, who moved their commercial base to Amsterdam in 2012 after securing a startup award from Dutch investment firm Personal Health Solutions, which is now a majority shareholder. Officials say the technology has been tested at Ludwig Maximillian University and the University of Munich, where it was found to successfully recognize melanoma in moles between 73 percent and 92 percent of the time. The app has since received CE certification in Europe.
The app analyzes images of moles taken on a smartphone to determine if they're growing abnormally. Moles at risk of containing melanoma cells are rated on a color system, from green (least dangerous) to orange to red (most dangerous).
"Skin cancer grows chaotically and potential suspicious moles are identified based on signs of non-natural growth," CEO Dick Uyttewaal told TechCrunch. "The algorithm within the online assessment reviews signs of non-natural growth of skin lesions and is based on an established mathematical methodology in biology called fractal geometry. The algorithm currently looks at seven different criteria and will be further improved based on the continuous growth in our database (currently in excess of 1 million pictures)."
Company officials stress that the app isn't a diagnostic tool, and only serves to alert users to seek medical attention is the threat is high.
"A changing mole (color, size, symmetry etc.) is a clear sign that something is wrong and that the person should visit a doctor immediately," Uyttewaal said.
The company has established a subscription pricing platform for its app, which is available on both Android and iOS.
"Consumers are only starting to get used to paying for health related applications," Uyttewaal told TechCrunch. "For those that provide support in a health risk area, and have been clinically proven, consumers have begun to pay monthly fees in excess of the SkinVision subscription, because they recognize the value and importance of managing potentially risky lesions early to prevent the need for longer term, more invasive and costly treatment."