Cancer-detecting apps diagnosed with terminal case of bullshit

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You still need to see a doctor to detect cancer. Photo: Christiana Care/Flickr
You still need to see a doctor to detect cancer. Photo: Christiana Care/Flickr

Want to know if that nasty mole on your shoulder is cancerous? There’s an app for that!

Errr… Actually, no. No, there’s not.

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that apps like Mole Detective and Mel App that are marketed as ways for iPhone users to snap pictures of moles to determine if they’re cancerous aren’t based on actual real-world science.

The two app makers reached a settlement with the FTC after the feds alleged that the apps lacked adequate evidence to support claims that they could calculate your mole’s melanoma risk as low, medium, or high without ever visiting a doctors office.

A description of Mel-app on iTunes. Photo: FTC
A description of MelApp on iTunes. Photo: FTC

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

There are two other Mole Detective marketers that still haven’t agreed to settle with the FTC.  The FTC’s settlement with makers prohibits them from claiming 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.”

Both marketers were also slapped with heavy fines, with one up bill close to $18,000. That almost doesn’t sound like enough after they made claims like doing “the work for you, automatically identifying and measuring symptoms of melanoma.”