I like that these apps raise awareness about the importance of skin cancer screening, however I have strong concerns about anyone using a $5.00 app for real medical decision making. The key to surviving a diagnosis of melanoma is catching it early, and so I cannot recommend any app that might delay a lifesaving medical check-up. Recently I wrote about Melafind, a new imaging technology that looks below the skin’s surface to analyze moles for signs of cancer. It went through years of testing and a thorough FDA approval process. Skin Scan is basically a photo app that can give different readings on the same mole depending on how bright the ambient light is.
If you are concerned about skin cancer and want to use these apps, use them for mole mapping and as a photo archive, but leave the analysis to a trained dermatologist. I do like and recommend apps that have been developed for improving sun-smart behaviors. MyUVAlert by Coppertone is free and provides local UV forecasts and reapplication reminders. It even lets you create profiles for every family member.
There is a strong drive to empower consumers across all levels of healthcare which has led to a surge in medical apps. But with Apple’s recent hire of a Director of Medical Marketing, and the FDA soon to publish its final guidelines on mobile medical applications, health apps should become more medically trustworthy. Until then there is no substitute for a professional medical evaluation.