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Smartphone Applications for Detection of Skin Cancer

Smartphone applications for melanoma detection by community, patient and generalist clinician users: a review. 

Smartphone applications (‘apps’) can have many uses in medicine, such as in education and training. However, experts have expressed caution concerning their usefulness and safety when it comes to actually diagnosing diseases. Apps that aim to aid cancer detection and diagnosis have not been subject to any sort of validation or regulatory controls in the US, UK and elsewhere. Therefore, there is a risk that the advice provided could be inaccurate or misleading, and they could even delay cancer diagnosis.

This study from the UK therefore reviewed apps available for the detection of melanoma – the most dangerous type of skin cancer – aimed at the public, patients and generalist clinicians (e.g. GPs). The authors identified almost 40 smartphone apps that aim to detect or prevent melanoma. Most apps gave advice or education about melanoma, sun safety advice on protecting the skin from harmful UV, and advice on checking the skin for signs of skin cancer. Half of the apps enabled people to capture and store images of their skin lesions, either for review by a dermatologist or to allow the person to monitor their own skin for any changes. Nine offered expert review of images. Four apps provided a risk assessment to patients about the probability that a lesion was malignant or benign, and one app calculated users’ future risk of melanoma.

None of the apps appeared to have been validated for diagnostic accuracy or utility using established research methods. The authors conclude that clinicians should be cautious about supporting the use of such apps to detect melanoma.

 A.P. Kassianos, J.D. Emery, P. Murchie and F.M. Walter This summary relates to DOI 10.1111/bjd.13665 British Journal of Dermatology, 172, 1507–1518, June 2015

Courtesy of the British Association of Dermatologists - Plain Language Summary Jun 2015. 


 Originally produced by Professor P. A. Farndon, Clinical Geneticist, Jim Costello (deceased) and Margaret Costello.  We are reliant on a team of medical advisors for the clinical content of the website. We are grateful for their continuing support. 
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