Most Skin Cancer Apps Not Accurate

It might seem like there’s nothing that mobile apps can’t do these days. After all, one can use mobile apps to control their home heating systems, book a flight, manage their finances and simulate the sounds of certain bodily functions. But these mobile apps do have limits. One example: Apps that claim to detect skin cancer.

TechCrunch broke down the results of a recent study that showed most skin cancer apps to be woefully inaccurate. Here’s the gist:

Dermatologists can rest assured that they will not be replaced by computers anytime soon. A new study finds that smartphone applications designed to automatically detect cancer lesions misdiagnose more than half of all malignant growths. “There’s no substitute, at this point, for a complete skin exam performed by an expert dermatologist for picking up melanoma as well as other skin cancers,” said University of Missouri dermatologist, Dr. Karen Edison (who was not involved in the study).

Since cancer-detecting apps aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration, most apps, such as Mole Detective, have butt-covering legal language like, “Always defer to a medical professional if you feel that a mole looks suspicious. Mole Detective’s intent is not to diagnose but to help you better track the symptoms of melanoma at home.”

Making cancer detection habitual could be a good thing, but it also might lull users into falsely believing that an actual tumor is benign.

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