Total Body Photography Software And The Early Detection of Skin Cancer

by The DermEngine Team on Mar 6, 2018

Total body photography is gaining popularity as a tool for the early detection and monitoring of skin cancers, however studies have provided varying results on its efficacy. This article sets out to identify the current features and benefits offered by total body imaging software, followed by the speculated areas in need of improvement, and concluded with methods for resolving these articles.


As stated previously, studies demonstrate mixed results pointing towards the efficacy of total body photography  as a tool to be used for the early detection of skin cancers, with particular interest in high-risk patients (skin cancer history, over age 50, etc.). For example, one study found that the chance of detecting melanoma increased by 17%1  with the use of a digital dermoscope alone. In another, total body imaging was found to improve the detection of melanomas that did not fit standard clinical condition profiles.

However, the American Cancer Society states that there was “insufficient evidence to recommend for or against routine skin screenings for skin cancer”, but goes on to note that the American Cancer Society supports regular skin screenings in addition to general health examinations.2

Benefits of Total Body PhotographyFull Body Imaging Constellation

Although the accuracy and efficacy of this method are a point of discussion, a wide variety of sources site the early detection of skin cancer, simplification of the imaging process, and ability to focus on patient care  as major benefits for the use of full body photography  within their practice. Similar to how a telescope aids in identifying constellations in the stars, total body photography allows dermatologists to map the vast expanse of moles located on the human body.

"If a patient has more than a hundred moles, then on the one hand it is difficult to make sure that you don't miss anything," explains senior physician Dr. Daniela Göppner. "On the other hand, the next time the doctor sees the patient, it is also necessary to be able to ascertain which moles have changed in terms of their size, texture, or color. It is necessary to find exactly the same places and the same moles."- Dr. Daniela Goppner 3

A well-known authoritative figure of
dermatology & dermatoscopy,
DermNetNZ actively supports total body photography (also known as mole mapping) while stating the following points as distinct advantages:

  • Previous images captured and stored on the software can be used to compare if there are any new or changing spots.
  • For cases where a medical professional notices a change to the patient’s spot due to the usage of the system, it was likely detected at an earlier stage, leading to a greater chance for survival if the case proves to be melanoma.
  • Alternatively, total body imaging allows the expert to monitor the spot for any changes if it proves to be innocent for the time being.
  • Spots that have not changed or follow the rules of ABCD are less likely to be melanoma, and therefore may not need removal. This therefore reduces the potential costs and risks associated with surgeries.

Challenges/ Current Limitations

It is clear that full body imaging has its advantages, however, it is not without its limitations. Some of the most popular obstacles and challenges cited by medical professionals include lack of interoperability, Medicare support, and the manual matching of spots.

For example, studies show that at least 70% of healthcare executives state that they require timely integration of clinical and financial data with their other systems, yet a mere 48% are satisfied with their current capabilities.4 This creates the question of how total body imaging software connects with other dermatology software, such as whether it is part of a larger system or if it offers seamless integration.

A second key obstacle in the United States is that there is no Medicare rebate. This presents a large problem to patients, as typical prices for total body photography services reach as high as $500. Seeing as many of these patients are high risk, they cannot afford to have annually updated images.

Despite the fact that “many experts say total body photography saves both lives and money as it helps doctors detect deadly melanomas earlier, reducing the need for invasive surgery, expensive cancer treatments and palliative care” it remains outside of financially supported services, greatly limiting its ability for growth in the field of dermatology EMR and patient management abilities.5

DermEngine Full Body Imaging Cross Platform

The Future of Total Body Photography
Based on the observations listed throughout this article, it is clear that in order for a full body imaging service to fulfill the needs of medical professionals and enhance their practice, the software must:

  • Offer interoperability with other medical systems such as teledermoscopy services
  • Be cost-effective to combat lack of Medicare support
  • Offer additional tools to support experts in the comparison of new and previous images
  • Utilize the latest technologies in artificial intelligence to support features such as mole mapping

Due to the ever-changing needs of medical professionals and patients alike alongside the rapidly progressing technologies in the field of dermatologytotal body photography services such as DermEngine are not only able to support dermatologists, but actually enhance their practice and allow them to focus on the quality of care provided to their patients. As the technological capabilities these systems progress, it will be interesting to see how support systems such as Medicare will respond to the growing support and need of these services.

-The MetaOptima Team

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Topics: Dermatology Dermoscopy Total Body Photography Dermatology EMR Dermatology Software Dermatoscopy Full Body Imaging