Phone apps ‘delay skin diagnosis’

Phone apps may delay skin cancer diagnosis

Researchers say you should seek medical advice in case you are interested in a mole

Using a smartphone app to determine whether a mole is cancerous could delay sometimes life-saving treatment, in step with American researchers.

The University of Pittsburgh scientists put four applications to the test by showing them 188 pictures of cancers and no more concerning skin conditions.

Three of the apps wrongly labelled the cancerous lesions as unproblematic in almost a 3rd of cases.

Doctors warn using phones instead of seeking expert help may be harmful.

The research, published within the journal JAMA Dermatology, checked out four well-known applications.

The images selected to check the apps were all of skin lesions that were later removed and checked for a correct diagnosis.

Three of the apps analysed the images using automated algorithms, without the involvement of doctors.

But users submitting pictures to the fourth app had their images reviewed by a professional skin specialist.

In this situation just one out of 53 cancerous legions was misdiagnosed, but this app cost $5 (£3.10) per use.

Prof Laura Ferris, lead researcher of the study, said: “It is necessary that users don’t allow their apps to take where of medical advice and physician diagnosis.

“In the event that they see a concerning lesion however the smartphone app incorrectly judges it to be benign, they might not follow up with a health care provider,” she added.

Deborah Mason, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “There are many mole-check apps available on the market – those who purport to give diagnosis needs to be treated with caution.

“A diagnosis can only be made by a health practitioner and anyone with a suspicious mole should speak to their GP or dermatologist about it.”

The researchers also raised concerns concerning the loss of regulation of applications purporting to offer medical advice.

The US Food and Drug Administration is currently staring at the potential of regulating some applications regarding health.

Last year in America two application developers were fined for making unsubstantiated claims that their software could treat acne using a colored light from a smartphone.

The UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: “The regulation of software corresponding to these health applications is complex and desires to be checked out on a case-by-case basis.

“Work is progressing on the European level to provide the best guidance to most effectively regulate this rapidly growing area.”