Flash mobs have been known to help build brands, generate excitement, and entertain, but can such crowds also help diagnose melanoma?


Researchers at the University of Utah and Texas Tech University have demed this type of approach “mole crowdsourcing,” and it seems to work

To arrive at their findings, the researchers showed 500 adult participants high-resolution images of 40 moles (nine of which were melanomas) and asked individuals to circle those they found suspicious. Although the average individual was only able to identify approximately half of the melanomas, researchers found that when looking at the group collectively, 19% of the participants were able to correctly identify 90% of the melanomas.MoleTask 2 opt

“Individuals are bad at finding cancerous moles,” says study author Jakob Jensen, an assistant professor of communication at University of Utah, in a news release. “Our research shows that groups of people – when looked at as a group – are very good at this task. We call this process collective effort.”

The findings are published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology.

While it would not replace clinical skin exams, “mole crowdsourcing could be implemented via modern communication technology,” he says. “For instance, our research team is already working on a cell phone application that will allow people to take a photo of a mole and have that image evaluated by hundreds, if not thousands, of other users.”