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Smartphone apps help drive skin cancer awareness


Dr. Antonella Tosti, a dermatologist at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, displays an image on her iPhone of a mark on the skin of a patient on June 15, 2011. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recently tested several smartphone apps to assess the viability of their use in determining whether or not certain moles are cancerous.


Joe Raedle

There's an app for just about everything these days.

Well, now there's an app that correctly detects skin cancer 98 percent of the time, Christopher Weaver of the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested four apps to analyze images of 188 moles, including 60 melanomas. All of these moles were pre-evaluated by a dermatologist. 

The best-performing app forwarded the images to board-certified dermatologists to review at cost of $5 per mole, while the other three used algorithms and cost less than $5. 

The worst of those apps determined that dozens of swollen, discolored moles were benign. During the study, that app correctly identified cancerous moles only 6.8 percent of the time.

While health apps can be great tools to help you stay aware, they shouldn't replace your doctor. 

"If patients are using one of these [apps] to say 'melanoma' or 'not melanoma,' they're going to get in trouble," dermatologist Ken Beer told The Wall Street Journal. "This can't be a person's only dermatologist."

While the study didn't mention the apps by name, SpotCheck co-founder Bobby Buka is convinced that his app was the top performer.

SpotCheck charges $4.99 per mole and sends those images to board-certified dermatologists. Buka said the app "received an unusually heavy number of submissions" during the study. 

You can download SpotCheck here.

There's a similar app called Mole Detective that you can download here.

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