MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (March 1, 2013) —Dermatologist cautions that smartphone apps to diagnose skin cancer are unreliable and should not replace regular, full-body skin exams by dermatologists
Overview: Unlike other cancers such as breast, colon, prostate and cervical cancers where there are specific age recommendations for diagnostic screenings, there are no specific age recommendations for skin cancer screenings. For that reason, dermatologists have long advised men and women of all ages to regularly examine their skin for early signs of skin cancer and to report a suspicious mole or lesion to a dermatologist. Now, new studies are finding that men 50 and older are not always heeding this advice.
American Academy of Dermatology expert Information provided by Laura K. Ferris, MD, PhD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania.
Life-saving advice: Skin cancer screenings save lives Recent research conducted by Dr. Ferris includes:
- A study of 167 patients diagnosed with melanoma over a five-year period examined which groups of patients were most and least likely to detect their own melanomas before being evaluated by a dermatologist. The study found 101 of the melanomas (60.5 percent) were brought to a dermatologist’s attention by the patient. With respect to melanomas not detected by the patient, the older a person was the more likely the melanoma was detected by a dermatologist. Specifically, men 50 years or older were more likely to be diagnosed with invasive melanoma by a dermatologist than women in the same age group or men and women in younger age groups.¹
- A study surveyed 478 adults who sought a skin cancer screening by a dermatologist to determine if an individual’s age or gender played a role in seeking a skin exam. The study found that the primary reason men 50 years or older sought a skin cancer screening was because of a previous skin cancer diagnosis (64.6 percent). This group was less likely than all other patients to seek a skin cancer screening because of a particular spot they were concerned might be skin cancer (11 percent vs. 22.5 percent).²
American Academy of Dermatology expert advice: “Older men are most at risk for melanoma and are most likely to die due to a delayed diagnosis,” said Dr. Ferris. “This should be a wakeup call to men over 50 and their loved ones. It’s vitally important that men check their skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if they notice a spot that is changing, growing or looks unusual.”
Buyer beware: smartphone applications don’t make the grade in diagnosing melanoma
Smartphone medical applications are a dime a dozen, and Dr. Ferris urges consumers to use caution when considering unregulated apps advertised to diagnose melanoma. A new study conducted by Dr. Ferris tested the accuracy of these apps and found unpredictable and inaccurate results that could delay a melanoma diagnosis were common.
- A study evaluated the accuracy of four smartphone applications designed to aid consumers in determining whether their skin lesion is melanoma. Digital clinical images of 60 confirmed melanomas and 128 benign control lesions diagnosed by a board-certified dermatopathologist were evaluated, and it was determined that three of the four smartphone applications incorrectly classified 30 percent or more of melanomas as “unconcerning.”³
Dr. Ferris’ tips for performing skin self-exams
- Use a mirror to examine hard-to-see places.
- Look for the “ugly duckling,” or the one mole that looks different from the rest.
- Pay attention to any mole that is changing or growing rapidly no matter its color, because melanoma may be brown, black, or even pink or red.
- If in doubt, get your mole looked at sooner rather than later. When detected in its earliest stages, melanoma is highly curable.
American Academy of Dermatology Expert advice: “Technology is a wonderful tool, but it should not replace the expertise of a board-certified dermatologist,” said Dr. Ferris.
To learn more about melanoma, visit www.SpotSkinCancer.org.
Celebrating 75 years of promoting skin, hair and nail health
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1 (888) 462-DERM (3376) or visit www.aad.org. Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology) or Twitter (@AADskin).
¹McGuire, Sean T. et al Surveillance of patients for early detection of melanoma. Archives of Dermatology 2011; 147(6):673-678.
²Andrulonis, Ryan et al The influence of age and sex on reasons for seeking and expected benefits of skin cancer screening. Archives of Dermatology 2010; 146(10):1097-1102.
³Wolf, Joel A. et al Diagnostic Inaccuracy of Smartphone Applications for melanoma detection. JAMA Dermatology, published online January 16, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.2382.