Wearable technology has seen massive growth in the tech industry in recent years.
From Apple Watch and Fitbit on your wrist to Google Glass on your head, wearables are everywhere. As technology advances, can wearable devices along with smartphone apps help aid in skin cancer prevention and detection?
While many are still in development, there are wearable devices and apps on the market right now that are attempting to do just that.
L’Oreal has developed a wearable patch that changes color based on how much sun exposure the wearer had that day. Other devices, such as Ultra's Violet App and Violet Plus wearable badge, calculate when it's time to get out of the sun.
Ilene Rothman, MD, Interim Chair of Dermatology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, believes that these tech innovations could be helpful for skin cancer prevention if used properly. "If the technology is an aid that's going to help people pay attention to their sun exposure, if they're wearing something that's going to tell them that ‘wow, I'm getting more sun than I thought I would,' and it's going to change their habits, then I think it's fine," says Dr. Rothman. "However, if users are going to rely on that device as an excuse to stay out in the sun longer, that's not good."
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While wearable devices and apps might be useful as reminders to protect ourselves from the sun, tech companies also have apps and phone attachments that claim to detect skin cancer. Dr. Rothman warns against trusting these devices.
"Many of them have you take a picture of your mole, it goes into a formula, and it tells you if you should worry about it or not. Those have been found to be quite inaccurate," says Dr. Rothman. "So they're telling people don't worry about this mole when they might need to worry about it. I think the devices that take and analyze a picture can be quite dangerous actually." These devices could lull users into a false sense of safety and deter them from getting skin screenings by a trained physician.
Technology is always advancing and the future may bring new applications for these devices. But for the time being, users should view personal screening technology as another tool for monitoring sun exposure and continue to rely on sunscreen and regular skin checks by physicians as the best ways to prevent and detect skin cancers.