No app can do this. Skin cancer: there’s an app for that—but you shouldn’t trust it. Smartphone apps frequently misdiagnose dangerous me...
Skin cancer: there’s an app for that—but you shouldn’t trust it. Smartphone apps frequently misdiagnose dangerous melanomas as unthreatening lesions, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Researchers downloaded four popular apps that claim to help fight skin cancer—the names weren’t listed in the study—and fed them images of cancerous and non-cancerous skin lesions. The results: Three out of the four apps classified over 70 percent of dangerous melanomas as non-cancerous.
That’s because most cancer-spotting apps rely on computer algorithms to predict if your mole is cancerous, but since cancer doesn’t neatly fit into most equations, the apps are easily fooled, says the study’s lead researcher, Laura Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Pitt’s Department of Dermatology. While other apps send images to dermatologists in the U.S. for their opinion, they usually get the results wrong 60 percent of the time.
You can’t make an accurate diagnosis with a single photo, Dr. Ferris says. In person, your doctor uses a magnifying glass to get a better look at the questionable mole and the surrounding area.
Not all apps are bad, though, and some can be useful for keeping track of suspicious moles, Ferris says. Snapping photos of potential trouble spots every 90 days helps you keep track of any changes in your moles. One good option: The UMSkinCheck (free for iOS) released from researchers at the University of Michigan. The app guides you through a series of 23 photos that covers your body from head to toe, and then stores the images you take to serve as a baseline for future exams.
But with such a serious disease, a doctor should always be your first stop. Make sure to keep an appointment with your dermatologist every year, and call him A.S.A.P. if you notice changes in a mole’s shape, size, or color. (Want to tell if your bump or blemish is the big C? Check out What Skin Cancer Looks Like.)
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