Skin cancer warning: Apps which claim to detect cancer slammed for ‘major failings’

Skin cancer warning: Apps which claim to detect cancer slammed for ‘major failings’

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UNTESTED skin cancer detection apps could be endangering the public because they have major failings which could lead to incorrect diagnoses, a study warned. While they can spot the early signs of skin cancer they are not a substitute for seeing a dermatologist as the new apps may not recognise rarer or unusual cancers.

University of Birmingham researchers decided to review the medical literature on skin cancer apps to see how accurate they are.

‘Quack’ apps that replace medical professionals have recently come under fire recently for doling out advice to the public without sufficient evidence or research.

Researchers found although this type of technology has “huge potential” and some apps have a high success rate for the diagnosis of skin cancer, there are also worrying failings that should not be ignored.

Some of the apps use tele-dermatology which involves sending an image directly to a dermatologist, photo storage which can be used by individuals to compare photos monthly to look for changes in a mole, and risk calculation based on colour and pattern recognition.

Skin Cancer

University of Birmingham researchers decided to review the medical literature on skin cancer apps.

Teledermatology correctly identified 88 per cent of people with skin cancer and 97 per cent of those with benign lesions.

Apps which use fractal theory analysis algorithms, which identifies irregularities in the skin, were the next most successful category, correctly identifying 73 per cent of people with skin cancer and 83 per cent of people with benign lesions.

Skin cancer is the most common form of the disease in the UK, with 50 per cent of dermatology referrals relating to it.

If caught early, diagnosis results in up to 100 per cent five-year survival.

If caught early, diagnosis results in up to 100 per cent five-year survival, compared with 25 per cent in women and 10 per cent in men diagnosed at a later stage.

Technology, if properly researched and backed up with evidence, could alleviate pressure on dermatology departments and could also increase survival rates, the scientists said.

But there were “major failings” such as a lack of rigorous published trials to show they work and are safe, a lack of input during development from specialists to identify which lesions are suspicious, and flaws in the technology used namely how the photos are analysed.

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