Experts at the Birmingham University; warn against Smartphones apps used as ‘early warning systems’ for skin cancer. The study shows the app as unreliable and poorly regulated. Experts said that the apps could not be relied upon to produce accurate results.
Researcher warns that the current regulatory process of these apps does not provide adequate protection for the public.
The creators of the apps wanted to ensure that the right people seek medical attention by providing a risk assessment of a new or changing mole. The apps offer the potential for earlier detection and treatment of suspicious moles. At the same time, they could be harmful, particularly if reassurance leads to delay in people seeking medical advice.
Europe has two available apps; SkinVision and SkinScan. Researchers deemed these apps to have a low, moderate risk to the users. Currently, no apps have the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. A previous expert’s review showed that there is a high chance of skin cancers missed by the apps.
During the study, clinicians chose suspicious moles and then the trained researcher took the photographs on the study phones.
SkinScan app evaluation took a single study of fifteen moles with melanomas. The app did not identify any melanomas.
SkinVision evaluation took two studies. One study of 108 moles thirty-five of them cancerous moles, the app achieved a sensitivity of 88% and a specificity of 79 per cent. This meant that the app would miss 12 per cent of the patients with cancerous moles; while, 21% of those non-problematic moles remained unidentified as potential cancerous moles.
The study authors said that in a population of a thousand users, three per cent have melanoma. SkinVision could still miss four of thirty melanomas. Researchers noted that the apps could not look at finer details by magnifying or touching the skin.
Maria Charalambides from Birmingham university said that; members of the public should avoid using the apps as they come with risks.
In the United Kingdom, the most common type of cancer is skin cancer. The UK diagnoses more than 230,000 new cases each year.
Around 2,285 people die of melanoma which is the most dangerous type of cancer. Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause skin cancer. If caught in the early stages, skin cancer is treatable by surgery.
The World Health Organization estimates between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132 melanoma skin cancers occur each year globally. However, the survival rate is high if melanoma is spotted early, which make prompt detection and treatment crucial.