NHS worker, 49, discovers cancerous mole with smartphone app

NHS worker, 49, has a cancerous mole on her leg cut off after finding out she had melanoma when a skin-checking app told her to visit a doctor

  • Seonaid Sichel, from Crewe, was diagnosed with melanoma last year
  • She had noticed a freckle on the back of her leg was spreading so got it checked
  • The app SkinVision told her the mole was ‘high risk’ and prompted a GP visit 

A mother has credited a mobile app for saving her life after she was diagnosed with cancer when it warned her about a suspicious mole on her leg. 

Seonaid Sichel, from Crewe in Cheshire, discovered she had melanoma after trying an app which checks moles for potentially dangerous changes.

She said the app, which she first read about on MailOnline, ‘probably saved my life’ after she had a lump of skin sliced off the back of her knee to remove the growth.

Seonaid Sichel discovered she had a cancerous mole on the back of her knee after she used the SkinVision mobile app which she had read about on MailOnline

Mrs Sichel said she first became aware of what she thought was a freckle in 2016, but she didn’t go to a doctor for another two years.

After growing up pale-skinned in South Africa and using tanning beds as an adult, the GP surgery receptionist said she is ‘ashamed’ it took her so long to become sun-conscious.

But once the freckle on the back of her leg started spreading outwards she knew she had to do something.

‘I have had that freckle my entire life, but it started spreading outwards,’ she said.

‘I was concerned so started looking online and found a MailOnline article about the app SkinVision.

‘I got a high-risk rating straight away but it was some time before I worried about it again.

‘Last year, I was on holiday with the whole family and one of the girls pointed it out and asked if I had got it checked.

‘I remembered about the app and did another check. Again it came back as high- risk and the very next day I received an email urging me to go to a dermatologist, it was this email that spurred me into action.’

SkinVision is an app based on artificial intelligence which uses a phone’s camera to take photos of a mole or blemish and analyse whether it poses a cancer risk.

The app checks the dimensions and shapes of moles to spot signs it might be more likely to be cancerous, then classes it as either low, medium or high risk.

SkinVision told Mrs Sechel the mole on the back of her leg was ‘high risk’ and urged her to make an appointment with her doctor, which she did – she was later told it was cancer

Healthy moles are fairly symmetrical in shape and have a smooth, consistent edge, whereas a melanoma is more likely to have a jagged, irregular outline.

And non-cancerous moles are usually one colour whereas a melanoma is made up of multiple shades. 

If the user gets a high-risk rating they are automatically sent advice from a dermatologist within the next 48 hours.

The app’s developers claim it successfully identified more than 200 skin cancers, 63 of which were melanomas – which kill around 2,000 Britons per year – in 2018.

Mrs Sechel (pictured with her family) said her daughters asked her about the mole on her leg while she was on holiday, which reminded her to get it checked out. She admits that after growing up in South Africa she wasn’t very careful in the sun

After Mrs Sichel received her high-risk rating in August, she booked a GP appointment and saw her doctor in September, and was referred to a dermatologist.

‘The dermatologist immediately knew when he looked at it with a dermascope,’ she said.

‘I was there on the Friday and the following Tuesday it was removed. Two weeks later I got the results, it was an invasive superficial malignant melanoma 1A.

‘I think without SkinVision I would have left it for a year or two, and by that stage it would have been too late. I think it probably saved my life.’

After Mrs Sichel had the cancer removed she had to go back to the Christie Hospital in Manchester, a major cancer treatment centre.

There, she had a 1cm patch of skin removed in the area around where the melanoma had been, to make sure all the disease had been treated.

Mrs Sichel, who has three adult daughters and a younger son, has since had no further problems.

Mrs Sechel needed a 1cm patch of skin removed where the mole had been to make sure the cancerous cells had all been removed

Mrs Sechel said: ‘I think without SkinVision I would have left it for a year or two, and by that stage it would have been too late. I think it probably saved my life’

Melanomas are most commonly caused by UV damage to the skin, according to the NHS – this can come from sunlight or from tanning beds.

Mrs Sichel admits that, growing up, she was oblivious to the dangers of the sun and may have put her health at risk.

She added: ‘We lived at the beach and spent every single day in the sun. I am naturally pale and freckly and I was always trying to keep up a tan.

‘We hadn’t even heard of suncream. We would go out and use a mix of brown vinegar and baby oil to get a tan, I remember as a child not being able to sleep on my back regularly because of sunburn.

‘I am ashamed to say that I have used sunbeds, as have my girls.

Mrs Sechel said she read a story on MailOnline about the app SkinVision and then decided to give it a try, a process which ended up with her being diagnosed and treated for the cancer

‘I used them until a few years ago when I heard that their use is as dangerous as smoking is! I don’t smoke so how can I, in all good consciousness, use sunbeds?’

And she says she has since recommended the app to her friends and colleagues, and even knows of another person who was diagnosed with cancer through it.

‘I told a colleague who tried it on a friend,’ Mrs Sichel added.

‘That person got an immediate high-risk, they went to their GP, then a specialist who diagnosed two basal cell carcinomas. The app actually saves lives.

‘Its £3.99 vs your life. I would definitely recommend people use it.’


Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 91,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in the US in 2018 and more than 9,000 are expected to die from it.

Around 15,900 new cases occur every year in the UK, with 2,285 Britons dying from the disease in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK statistics. 


  • Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
  • Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma 
  • Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
  • Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
  • Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
  • Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk


  • Removal of the melanoma:

This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary. 

  • Skin grafting: 

The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent. 

  • Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy: 

This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body. 


  • Use sunscreen and do not burn
  • Avoid tanning outside and in beds 
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Examine your skin every month
  • See your physician every year for a skin exam 

 Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society

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