Mole-Checking Apps Do Have Limitations

July 9, 2019

© Piyoros Premsathien | Dreamstime

One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.  That's a lot of people! The good news is with early detection, many skin cancers can be removed before they cause major problems. That's lead to a slew of phone apps to check moles for any signs of cancer. The apps claim to analyze your moles or help you figure out which necessitate a trip to the doctor. Generally there are three categories: apps that let you take a photo and send it to a dermatologist, usually for a fee. Examples: First Derm, DermatologistOnCall. (These are often for any skin condition, not just moles or suspected cancer), apps that analyze a photo of a mole, and give an automatic assessment of whether it’s likely to be high or low risk for cancer. Example: SkinVision and apps that don’t judge your moles, but allow you to compare over time. Some of these let you take a photo of a large area of skin, such as your entire back, to compare over time. Examples: MiiSkin, UMSkinCheck. No matter how advanced the “AI” or “machine learning” or “fractal analysis” an app boasts, there is a good chance the diagnosis will be wrong. One study found that the apps that used real dermatologists were right about 88% of cancerous moles and 97% of benign ones. That sounds pretty good at first glance, but it means that 3% of people without skin cancer could be told that they have it; and that 12% of people who do need to get checked out would be told that they’re probably fine. And that’s just the apps that sent photos to dermatologists. Apps that analyzed photos automatically had an even lower success rate. So visiting a dermatologist is your best bet for the safest and most accurate diagnosis. However using one of the many mole apps in addition to scheduled visits with your doctor couldn't hurt. But as long as you know what to look for; what dermatologists call the ABCDEs of skin cancer detection, Asymmetry, the shape of the Border, the Color of the mole, its Diameter (aka size), and whether it seems to be Evolving, or changing over time., you may not need an app.  

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SOURCE: Lifehacker

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