Do not trust apps that claim to detect skin cancer from a photo: scientists warn that two of the most popular tools miss the disease up to 21% of the time
- For smartphone apps, you must scan your birthmark with your phone camera
- AI algorithms detect everything that is suspicious and apps claim to save lives
- A review by British scientists found that up to 21% of skin cancers can be missed
- They assessed nine studies that evaluated the effectiveness of six apps
- Two apps, SkinVision and SkinScan, claimed to detect cancer at every stage
Smartphone apps cannot be used to detect skin cancer, experts have warned.
Popular apps that are used as ‘early warning systems’ for suspicious moles do not collect all cancers, according to an article published in the British Medical Journal.
Experts from the universities of Birmingham and Nottingham said that regulation of the apps – which take pictures of birthmarks and tell people if they are at risk – “offers insufficient protection to the public.”
According to the BMJ, smartphone apps that are used as ‘early warning systems’ for suspicious moles do not collect all forms of cancer.
The entire industry is poorly regulated and it cannot be trusted that the apps will produce accurate results.
Skin cancer detection apps are designed to ensure that the right people seek medical help by giving a risk assessment of a new or changing birthmark.
These apps use specialized algorithms to detect potential skin cancer.
Researchers analyzed a series of studies that were conducted to evaluate the accuracy of six different apps.
Skin cancer detection apps are designed to provide a risk assessment of a new or changing birthmark
Two of these apps – called SkinVision and SkinScan – are available and approved for use in Great Britain and the rest of Europe.
SkinScan was evaluated in a single study of 15 moles with five melanomas. The app has not identified any of the melanomas.
SkinVision was evaluated in two studies.
WHAT IS SKINVISION?
SkinVision is an app for mobile phones that assesses the risk of skin cancer for a user by analyzing their birthmarks.
After downloading the app, which costs £ 4.49 for one-time use and £ 26.99 for unlimited controls for one year, it asks questions about the skin type of the user, ranging from very reasonable to dark brown.
The user then takes three photos of each of his chosen moles on his phone.
These images are guided by an algorithm that assesses factors such as asymmetry and shape.
An assessment is performed within 30 seconds, with ‘all clear’ no action required, ‘medium risk’ means that the mole must be followed and ‘high risk’ where the user must visit a doctor.
If a user receives a risky assessment, an internal dermatologist will give a free assessment within two days to explain why there is cause for concern.
These images are then added to the algorithm, which contains more than three million images, to improve accuracy.
The app, which is available worldwide, apart from the US and Canada, also sends users reminders to visit a doctor if necessary.
A study by SkinVision showed that the app is more than 95 percent sensitive.
A 108-mole study – 35 of which were cancerous or precancerous birthmarks – saw 88 percent of the dangerous birthmarks, missing 12 percent.
And 21 percent of non-problematic birthmarks were incorrectly identified as potentially cancerous.
Dr. Jac Dinnes, from the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham, said: “This is a rapidly evolving field and it is really disappointing that there is no better quality available to judge the effectiveness of these apps.
“It is vital that healthcare providers are aware of current limitations, both in technologies and in their evaluations.”
Professor Hywel Williams of the University of Nottingham added: “Although I was broad-minded about the potential benefit of skin cancer diagnosis apps, I am now worried about the results of our study and the overall poor quality of studies that have been used to test these apps.
“My advice to anyone who is worried about a possible skin cancer is to contact your doctor if in doubt.”
Erik de Heus, CEO of Dutch SkinVision, said: “The latest research shows that SkinVision can detect 95 percent of skin cancer cases.
“We have already helped find more than 40,000 cases. These objective facts prove that the clinical benefits of the service outweigh the risks. “
Zeljko Ratkaj, CEO of the Serbian company TeleSkin, who developed the SkinScan app, said the program is not a diagnostic tool – but rather “supports users in their own skin self-examination using image and history-driven analysis.”
He added: ‘I fully agree that this area, the use of mobile applications in healthcare, must be regulated more strictly. It must also be very clear what the scope of app use is and what the applications are and what not.
“However, the certification process is very difficult and can be an impossible obstacle for young startups to cross because of the funding limits, time and effort that must be put into it.”
WHAT DO CANCERY MILL LIKE? CHECKING IS AS EASY AS ABCDE
The more birthmarks a person has, the greater the risk of melanoma.
The following ABCDE guidelines can help people identify birthmarks that may need to be checked by a doctor.
Note birthmarks with an irregular shape.
Check for asymmetrical moles with an irregular shape
Check for serrated edges.
People should watch out for moles with irregular edges and jagged edges
If a mole changes color or one part has a different color than another, consult a doctor.
About birthmarks that change color or have a different color
Any increase in size must be checked, but be especially careful with birthmarks that are more than about 6 mm wide.
Every change in size must be checked, but more than 6 mm wide is very worrying
The E-section is generally classified as ‘height’; warns you to watch out for moles that have been lifted from the surface, especially if it is irregular.
But Dr. David Fisher, director of the melanoma program at the Massachusetts General Hospital, explains that many dermatologists have different classifications for this.
His preferred language is ‘evolve’.
Dr. Fisher told MailOnline earlier: ‘Will it change? Do you notice something suspicious or worrying? That is the key. ”
Watch out for moles that grew up or who ‘eover time