There are hundreds of cancer-focused apps with the potential to enhance efforts to promote behavior change, to monitor a host of symptoms and physiological indicators of disease, and to provide real-time supportive interventions, conveniently and at low cost. However, there is a lack of evidence on their utility, effectiveness, and safety.
For example this study found several apps for melanoma detection designed to help users determine their melanoma risk by analyzing a digital image of the user’s lesion. A study of the accuracy of four of these apps to correctly classify 60 melanoma and 128 benign control lesions, found the results to be highly variable: 3 of the 4 apps incorrectly classified 30% or more of the melanoma lesions as unconcerning. These types of apps have the potential to cause distress and harm if they provide the patient with advice that is misleading. The FDA maintains a list of apps on its website that have been approved by the agency. The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has gone one step further in producing a Library of Health Apps that are reviewed by the NHS to ensure that they are clinically safe and rated by consumers. There are also CONSORT-eHealth reporting guidelines for randomized controlled trials of Web-based and mobile health interventions.
Currently lacking is a synthesis of this information for consumers, reporting standards for app store descriptions, and a set of criteria to aid consumers in selecting health apps. This information could be beneficial to developers, funders, and health professionals as well, and may improve the development of future apps and stimulate work in neglected areas.