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Skin cancer detecting apps no substitute for doctor

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 01:54 PM CDT
Do you have skin cancer?    
Are you worried about that mole?
Can your cell phone give you the answer?

Channel Three's Lena Deflores takes a look at the new technology and whether or not it works.

Nowadays there's an app for everything.
Games. Movie times. Directions.
So apps that can detect skin cancer, saving you time and money sound appealing.
No doctor. No waiting. No co-pay.
But does it also mean, no accuracy?

"It's not a human checking you out. It's a picture compared to other pictures.
"It's a computer."
"I'd be a little hesitant."

Cherry Hergesheimer has battled skin cancer before.
"I had two removed, first off of the forehead, then one beside my nose."

She's had four carcinomas removed from her face, eventually having to undergo topical chemotherapy on half of her face.
She says he's not sold on apps that say they can diagnose skin cancer.
"Especially if it says that it's not that, because it's too serious."

 And dermatologist, Dr. Kevin Welch, says she's right to be wary.
"It's not enough to flick one f these things on your mole and have an 'oh, it's OK' and forget about it."
"You need to see a physician."

There are more than 40 apps focused on skin cancer self-diagnosis or monitoring.
Most work pretty much the same way.
You take a photo of any moles you might be worried about.
The app uses algorithms to find if a mole has turned into a melanoma by analyzing the mole's symmetry, color and shape.
But does it work?

"It's a helpful diagnostic tool if it tells you its dangerous, but it's not a reliable tool if it tells you it's not."

You can't really take that to the bank."

A study by the University of Pittsburgh medical center found the apps misdiagnosed 30 percent of melanomas as non cancerous.

The study also found the apps only gave the correct diagnosis an average of 33 to 42 percent of the time.
Dr. Welch says that's dangerous.
"One of those three people is getting a wrong answer. Potentially, a life threatening wrong answer."

But there are aspects of these apps that Dr. Welch says are helpful.
"It does photo document your body to see if there are new or changing moles and that is very beneficial for a doctor, potentially."

But still, Cherry prefers a personal check-up.
"They check me over from head to toe, in my hair."
"Behind my ears, the tops of my feet..."

All of the apps Channel Three News looked at had disclaimers that the apps are for education and you shouldn't rely on the apps above professional medical advice and Dr. Welch agrees.
"You are much better served to see your dermatologist.">>

Dr. Welch also had some reminders as you enjoy our Florida sun.
Wear an SPF 30 sunscreen and reapply it often.
Every two hours is a good rule of thumb.
And if you're swimming, you should reapply that sunscreen every time you get out of the water.

Skin cancer detecting apps no substitute for doctor


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