Pale skin and one too many childhood sunburns have left me with a freckled complexion and a constant worry over which moles and spots I should consider "normal" and which ones might require further inspection.

I do try to check in with a dermatologist every few years, but sometimes I fret in between appointments about spots that I forgot to mention or spots that looked fine yesterday but suddenly seem menacing today.

Turns out, this makes me the perfect candidate for a new iPhone app that was released last month: MelApp. The iPhone app uses the gadget's camera to photograph skin lesions like freckles and moles and analyze them for melanoma risk.

Here's how it works: take a picture of a mole, freckle or other suspicious spot. Answer two questions about the size of the spot in question and how quickly it has evolved. Next, MelApp will upload your pic and compare it to a database of moles and freckles licensed from John Hopkins University Medical Center. The software then provides a risk assessment of your spot.

I tried it on two spots in particular that I've been worried about lately. Both came back as low-risk, which was a bit of a relief. If MelApp had detected a cancer risk, I would have been directed to a nearby physician for a follow-up evaluation, using GPS technology included in my smartphone.

Of course, I'll probably check in with my dermatologist sooner rather than later anyhow. I don't think a $1.99 app could ever really replace a trained physician, nor is it meant to. But it does set my mind at ease a little. And it also gives me a new tool for assessing risks in between doctor appointments.

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