Total Body Photography: A Tool Against Skin Cancer

Total Body Photography Is A Great Way To Monitor Skin Lesions

Did you know that the best way to keep track of all the moles and random spots on your skin is to routinely take pictures of them? This allows you to compare a picture from 6 months or a year ago to a picture you take today. It avoids the hassle of trying to remember if your mole really was that big or that dark before. Your guesses and attempts at trying to remember are probably wrong anyway. Total body photography attempts to take pictures of the entire surface area of your skin in order to be able to compare skin lesions as time goes on. This method of following moles will help you avoid being diagnosed with a bigger melanoma or avoid an extra biopsy for a suspicious mole that hasn’t changed in the past 5 years.

Fotofinder is one example of a total body photography system.

Fotofinder is one example of a total body photography system.

Best Patients for Total Body Photography

For people with a lot of moles, it is difficult for your dermatologist to know which moles have changed and which ones have stayed entirely the same. Therefore, try to put yourself in your doctor’s shoes. If you can’t remember if your mole has grown or changed colors, how could your doctor? Remember, your doctor may be seeing up to 40 other patients with similar symptoms in the same day!

Although you can use any camera with a high enough resolution at home to document any moles (and I highly recommend that you do), the cameras and accompanying software systems used in total body photography are extremely advanced. They have been designed to capture every surface of your body with precision. They are able to compare the pictures you take at baseline to the pictures you take in subsequent years. The built-in software is even able to pinpoint exactly where changes have occurred. This software can highlight any changes so that the doctor knows this is a problem area that should be double-checked.

What are the steps in total body photography?

I’m going to give you the nitty gritty details. As you can imagine, you have to be mostly naked to get good pictures. Since your clothes will hide a lot of skin that should be examined, I recommend you undress entirely. You can choose to take fully naked pictures. Or you can wear a bra (if you’re female) and paper underwear (regardless of gender). The technician who will be handling the computer side of the photography process will tell you how you need to stand and position your limbs. You will have to follow a set of poses as exactly as possible. This will allow the doctor to capture good baselines images.

The most important thing is taking good pictures the first time around. These will be used for comparison for years to come. Everything about the room will be standardized including the wall color, lighting, and placement of the camera and the camera station. This will ensure everything is to scale and all the colors are comparable from year to year.

Every surface area will be photographed.

When I say that you will be photographed from head to toe, I mean literally from head to toe. You will spread your fingers during some positions so that the camera can take pictures of the space between them. If there are certain areas where you have more moles or you’re a bald man, the technician can take additional photographs from the standard baseline procedure.

Dermatoscopes allow closer inspection of a skin lesion.

In addition, most of the total body photography systems also have high-powered dermatoscopes attached. A dermatoscope is a tool used in dermatology to better visualize a skin lesion and see it more closely.

A typical dermatoscope.

Think of it as an expensive magnifying glass with better lighting. The detail seen under a dermatoscope is so good you can often rule out certain diagnoses without using a biopsy due to the characteristic appearance under the dermatoscope. The dermatoscope attached to the computer can take high magnification pictures that can be used for future comparison of lesions your dermatologist wants to follow closely. While with the commonplace pocket dermatoscope you cannot save the picture.

In conclusion, don’t underestimate the value of having a set of high-resolution images of your entire body surface area.

You may save yourself a biopsy or two down the road. Likewise, you may be catching a suspicious change much earlier than you could have otherwise. In dermatology, time is always of the essence.

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