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Could You Have Skin Cancer? There's an App for That

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If you've ever wondered if the mole you see on your skin could be something more serious -- don't worry. There's an app for that.

Smartphone apps are now promising to detect and even diagnose skin cancer.

But medical experts are concerned that the questionable safety and accuracy of such apps could affect whether or not people choose to seek treatment from a doctor.

For the study, published in the online JAMA Dermatology, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center evaluated four unidentified smartphone apps that claimed to ascertain whether a mole has developed into a cancerous melanoma.  The app that performed the best could accurately single out cancerous moles 98.1 percent of the time, while the app with the worst accuracy identified them up only 6.8 percent of the time -- a far cry from the trained dermatologists' accuracy levels of around 90 percent.

But these apps are generally not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as noted in a Wall Street Journal report. However, there are FDA-approved apps, meant for specific use by physicians in making diagnoses.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project of more than 3,000 respondents, 35 percent of Americans consulted websites to figure out what ails them, and of that group, about half wind up seeing a doctor.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in a statement responding to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's study, the FDA said this research can "reinforce the importance of consumers talking with a health care professional before making any medical decisions," and that the agency plans to make mobile apps a top priority.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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