Tens of thousands of skin cancer patients could be diagnosed faster thanks to a new smartphone camera lens.
The lens – which is the size of a 50p – can attach to a smartphone and take detailed images of moles or skin legions.
Dubbed “teledermatology” by NHS officials, the service is to be rolled out across all areas of England by July with hopes that specialist doctors like dermatologists can double the number of patients they can assess in a day.
Last year around 600,000 people were referred for skin cancer checks, while 56,000 skin cancer patients received treatment.
The device was shown to have helped avoid about 10,000 unneeded face-to-face appointments during an earlier testing phase, NHS officials said.
Calls for sunscreen to be VAT-free as charity warns about link between poverty and skin cancer
Multi-cancer blood test could ‘help save thousands of lives’
Dame Esther Rantzen says she has stage four cancer
The technology may also enable GPs in rural areas to help their patients be reviewed faster.
Dr Tom While, a GP from Somerset, said: “It’s a fantastic service and an asset to rural general practice, and hard to imagine working without it.”
It comes as a new poll, conducted by Censuswide on 2,000 British adults on behalf of King Edward VII’s Hospital, found that 22% do not wear sun cream.
The NHS is also trialling artificial intelligence (AI) tools to assess the presence of skin cancer.
Signs of skin cancer to spot
Skin cancer can be diagnosed as non-melanoma and melanoma, the latter of which is more serious, according to the NHS.
The first sign of non-melanoma is usually the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch of skin that slowly grows.
In most cases, these cancerous lumps are red and firm and sometimes turn into ulcers.
One of the main signs of melanoma is a new mole or change in an existing mole.
A mole with an uneven shape, mix of colours, change shape over time or just very large moles may be melanomas.
The technology, called Deep Ensemble for the Recognition of Malignancy (Derm), is currently being used alongside the assessment of doctors to see if it comes to the same conclusions.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said that “championing the use of digital technology” is “key” in reducing wait times and huge pressures on the health service.