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Inaccurate diagnoses of melanoma by smartphone apps could delay doctor visits, life-saving treatment
Date:1/16/2013

ied dermatologist. The applications often are available for free or at a very low cost, and are not subject to any regulatory oversight or validation.

Only the application that utilized dermatologists for a personal review of user images, essentially functioning as a tool to facilitate teledermatology, provided a high degree of sensitivity in diagnosis - just one of the 53 melanomas was diagnosed as "benign" by the experts reading the images. This application also was the most expensive, costing users $5 per image evaluation. Although the tools included disclaimers stating they were providing information for educational purposes only, researchers noted the risk that patients might rely on the application's evaluation rather than seek the advice of a medical professional.

The likelihood of relying on the application's free or low-cost evaluation is particularly concerning for the uninsured or economically disadvantaged, especially because a substantial number of melanomas are first detected by patients, noted the study authors. "If they see a concerning lesion but the smartphone app incorrectly judges it to be benign, they may not follow up with a physician," said Dr. Ferris. "Technologies that decrease the mortality rate by improving self- and early-detection of melanomas would be a welcome addition to dermatology. But we have to make sure patients aren't being harmed by tools that deliver inaccurate results."


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Contact: Carrie Stevenson
BeckerC@upmc.edu
412-586-9778
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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