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HHS HealthBeat (February 15, 2013)

Checking melanoma apps


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From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

The skin cancer melanoma is commonly treatable if caught early and commonly deadly if not, so early diagnosis is crucial. Some apps claim to spot melanoma from a smartphone camera picture. So researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested four apps, using pictures of melanomas.

Three, which diagnosed based on automated computer processes, were wrong more than 30 percent of the time. One, which sent the picture to a dermatologist for diagnosis, was almost always right.  

Researcher Laura Ferris advises being leery of apps:

“We’re not ready to take the physician out of the picture quite yet. See your dermatologist, or even your primary care physician.”

The study in JAMA Dermatology was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: March 20, 2013