Skin Cancer-Detecting Apps Largely Inaccurate
According to new research, computers aren’t a good substitute for good old-fashioned dermatology after all. The study, which was published in the Journal of The American Medical Association, found that smartphone applications developed to detect early signs of skin cancer aren’t very effective (big surprise).
“It seems so appealing,” said lead researcher Dr. Laura Ferris, assistant professor at the Department of Dermatology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Unfortunately, our data suggest that maybe these apps aren’t quite there.”
In fact, the study found that four different smartphone apps claiming to be able to identify melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) came up with variable results. Most disconcertingly, three out of four apps categorized melanomas as normal 30 percent of the time.
In the study, researchers showed a total of 188 images of skin lesions to each of the four apps. Results varied greatly across the board, with the worst app missing 93 percent of malignancies.
Not All Skin Cancer-Detecting Apps Created Equal
It’s important to note that not all dermatology apps were a complete waste of time. The three apps that failed to identify melanomas the most used digital image analysis (an algorithm to automatically analyze photos of skin).
Conversely, the most successful app sent a picture of the skin lesion directly to a board-certified dermatologist for a $5 evaluation (1 lesion per evaluation) who sent a reply within 24 hours. This virtual consultation was responsible for correctly identifying 53 out of 54 instances of skin cancer.
The Study Take-Away
Though most of us like the idea of taking control of own health, skin cancer-detecting apps (and other diagnostic apps like them) should never be considered an alternative to traditional medical care. Always view these results with a grain of salt. If you’re concerned about any aspect of your health, you should schedule a visit with a medical health professional.
Source: CBS News