Skin Cancer Apps 20130116

Smartphone apps could misdiagnose melanoma. (The Canadian Press)

Mobile apps to track and diagnose skin diseases are widespread and have the potential to expand the delivery of care but should be used with caution, researchers say.

In Wednesday's issue of JAMA Dermatology, researchers identified a total of 229 dermatology-related apps for uses such as monitoring psoriasis, diagnosing melanoma and giving sun screen advice.

"This is an area of buyer beware because there are no regulations and no guarantees that these apps are providing accurate medical information," Dr. Robert Dellavalle, senior author of the study and a professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in a release.

Smartphones apps are useful in dermatology since visual exams are key to diagnosis and management, the study's authors said.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will only regulate apps that act like medical instruments, such as those that perform ultrasounds.

Dermatology apps vary in function, from documenting lesions and uploading photos to a dermatologist for feedback to logging treatment regimens. Many apps are disease guides that focused on one disease, such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis or eczema.

The 10 apps with the most consumer reviews were:

  1.  Ultraviolet-UV Index.
  2.  VisualDx.
  3.  SPF.
  4.  iSore.
  5.  SpotMole.
  6.  Pocket Derm.
  7. Skin Scan.
  8. Doctor Mole.
  9. What's My Rash?
  10. Skin Conditions.

The study's authors said the apps offer the chance to expand care to underserved communities.

About 51 per cent of the apps targeted patients.

Dellavalle said he thinks most apps are generally safe but he would cross-reference them with other apps, other people and your doctor.