FTC Gives Thumbs Down to Claims That App Can Detect Skin Cancer

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The Bureau of Consumer Protection cracks down, citing lack of scientific underpinning for app makers' claims.

Relying on an app to detect skin cancer is probably too good (and easy) to be true. But that hasn’t stopped marketers of melanoma detection apps from claiming that they can aid in early detection of skin cancer.

Now the Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers that some skin cancer detection apps, including MelApp and Mole Detective, lack the scientific evidence to support their claims.

This is how the mole apps purport to work: You use your smartphone to photograph your mole, and then input other information about the mole. The apps analyze the photo and information and assess the mole’s melanoma risk.

The FTC said the marketers claimed that the apps were accurately assessing risk, when they had no evidence to support those statements.

“Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps.”

The first marketer of the Mole Detective app agreed to settle with the FTC.

“The settlement … prohibits them from claiming that a device, such as an app, can detect or diagnose melanoma, unless the representation is truthful, not misleading, and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of human clinical testing of the device,” the FTC said.

The FTC is pursuing legal action against the second marketer of the Mole Detective app.

The proposed MelApp settlement prohibits the company from claiming that it can detect melanoma unless clinical testing can support it. The app marketer also has to pay a $17,963 fine.

Cancer is scary. I would hope that anyone who is really concerned that they have a cancerous mole would go to a medical doctor instead of relying on a cheap app for diagnosis

Have you tried one of these (or other) melanoma detection apps? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

While apps for cancer detection may be little more than a work in progress, apps can help with a wide array of other tasks, including preparing your income taxes — and that deadline is upon us. Watch this video to learn more:

Stacy Johnson

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