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Tech Check: Report says skin cancer smartphone apps are inaccurate

by Doug Delony / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 22, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 22 at 11:40 AM

HOUSTON -- We know about the smartphone apps that help you count calories, but what about apps that claim they can help you detect skin cancer?

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of medical and health apps in the Android Market Place and Apple App Store. Most of them will always say you should consult a real doctor.

A new report from the American Medical Association says that should especially be the case when it comes to skin cancer apps. The apps in questions let you take photos of your skin and send them in to be analyzed.

The report said doctors and researchers looked at four of these apps. Out of 200 images taken, they found that the even the best app missed 30 percent of melanoma cases. The worst app missed 93 percent!

The researchers wouldn’t name the apps they studied, but they said there are two different types: The least accurate apps use an algorithm to automatically analyze photos of your skin for melanoma patterns. The more accurate apps actually took the images, and for a $5 service charge, would send them to a real doctor who would look at your skin from afar.

Either way, in short, the report seemed to suggest people should use caution when using these types of apps. Doctors said beyond concerns about the accuracy of such apps, they are even more concerned about their use delaying a patient’s trip to see a real doctor in person.

On the web: Read the report | Read more on Mashable.com

Questions? Comments? Feel free to reach out to Doug on Facebook (facebook.com/KHOUDougDelony) or Twitter (@DougDelonyKHOU)

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