New Skinder App May Help Med Students Spot Skin Cancer

Thursday, August 30, 2018 | Skin Cancer , Research and Publications , Melanoma


Skinder, a dermatologist-developed app, may help medical students learn to spot skin cancer.

Skinder works like the matchmaking app Tinder. But instead of considering pictures of potential dates, swiping right if they’re attractive or left if they’re not, users consider high-resolution pictures of lesions, swiping right if they’re benign or left if they’re cancerous. As users categorize each lesion, the app tells them if they’re right or wrong. At the end of the session the app scores their overall accuracy.

Michael Kolodney, MD, who chairs West Virginia University’s Department of Dermatology, developed the app to cultivate intuition in medical students sooner, and an initial study suggests Skinder may improve how accurately medical students diagnose melanomas.

The study’s findings appear in JAMA Dermatology.

Thirty-six WVU medical students participated in Dr. Kolodney’s study of the app. None of them had completed a dermatology rotation yet. During the study, half of the participants spent an hour reviewing the “ABCD rule” for identifying melanomas. The other half of the participants spent an hour using the app to rapidly browse through images of lesions and categorize them as malignant or benign based solely on their appearance and without formally applying the ABCD rule.

When the medical students took a follow-up test to see how well they could visually diagnose melanomas, participants who used Skinder scored significantly better than their counterparts who focused on the ABCD rule.

“Dermatologists make their diagnoses based on just looking at a lesion and seeing what comes to mind. The reason medical students can’t do that is they have very limited exposure to dermatology,” says Dr.  Kolodney in a news release.

“The idea behind the app was to expose them to thousands of images in a short amount of time to develop this intuitive sense.”

Dr. Kolodney—whose research team included WVU medical student Frank Lacy and dermatology residents Garrett Coman and Alex Holliday from the University of Utah School of Medicine and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, respectively—thinks the premise of Skinder could be useful in other fields that rely on visual diagnosis, such as radiology and ophthalmology. Eventually he wants to expand Skinder’s photo library and make the app available for free download. That way more medical students, and even dermatology patients, can use it.

Photo Credit: West Virginia University

Photo Caption: WVU researcher Michael Kolodney and his research team have found that a Tinder-like app can be an effective tool for teaching medical students to distinguish benign skin lesions from malignant ones. Kolodney chairs the Department of Dermatology within the WVU School of Medicine.

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