A new smartphone app for monitoring skin cancer made its debut at the World Congress of Dermatology in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Maryam Sadeghi, director of the Digital Health Hub, designed the MoleScope app and device during her PhD research at Simon Fraser University.

"It enables patients to have access to the same system that doctors have in their clinic," said Sadeghi. 

"As a patient, I don't have to wait 12 months to use [a doctor's] phone or... camera to look at my mole. I can do this from home."

PhD supervisor found melanoma

The app works by attaching a mini-microscope to a smartphone camera, which takes images of skin moles and uploads them to a cloud-based analytical platform, where doctors can view it in closer detail.

Maryam Sandeghi unveils Molescope skin cancer app

Maryam Sadeghi shows off an early version of MoleScope, an app for smartphones and iPads that people can use to monitor for signs of skin cancer. (Simon Fraser University)

This allows people to monitor their moles and skin health, share images with family and healthcare providers and eventually, connect with skin specialists online.

The app has already been tested, and has received approval from Health Canada.

Sadeghi says it has even been put to practical use.

"My PhD supervisor, she found her melanoma when she was designing the device, just testing the image quality," said Sadeghi. 

"We were fortunate that she found it in an earlier stage."

App could help remote communities

Dr. Susan Poelman, a dermatologist at the University of Calgary, says the device could help solve problems in her own clinic.

"Usually what I try to do is get good images with my iPhone hovering over the dermatoscope," said Poelman.

MoleScope skin cancer app

The MoleScope app uses a microscopic device that attaches to a smartphone camera. (GP Mendoza/CBC)

"Using this new technology is going to make it less cumbersome in terms of keeping track of moles."

Sadeghi eventually wants to use MoleScope to help communities that don't have access to skin cancer specialists.

"There are tele-health programs already that [the] government is already funding to connect remote areas to major centres," she said.

"The problem they have... is that they don't have access to high quality images."

Two versions of the MoleScope are expected to retail at $149.00, and a professional model will cost $200.00.

The device and app were designed and built in Vancouver.

The app currently only runs on iOS, with an Android version in the works.