Detecting melanoma? FTC says there’s not an app for that

Detecting melanoma? FTC says there’s not an app for that
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Monday that it has reached settlements with two developers who claimed their apps could accurately detect the risk of melanoma. 

The two apps — MelApp and Mole Detective — instructed users to take a picture of a mole and promised to give an early assessment of whether it was skin cancer. The commission alleged the companies lacked adequate evidence to support their claims. 

Each company was required to hand over a small amount of money and was prohibited from claiming their apps can detect skin cancer unless it is supported by scientific testing. Neither product is currently available in the Apple app store. 


MelApp agreed to the terms. The Mole Detective’s developer agreed to settle as well, but the FTC is pursuing legal action against the  company that did the app’s marketing because it did not agree to the terms. 

The commission on Monday approved the settlements on a 4-1 vote. Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen dissented, asserting that the ruling has the potential to chill the development of future healthcare apps that can be useful to consumers. 

Ohlhausen said the scientific testing threshold is too high, especially in healthcare apps that only claim that they can enhance or improve a self-assessment, and do not claim dermatologist-level accuracy.  She said the deceptive advertising claim against the apps was too “amorphous.”

The three Democratic members of the commission shot back that the ruling simply requires scientific testing to demonstrate accuracy “at a level appropriate to the claim being made.”

“Thus, if scientific testing demonstrates that the app is accurate 60 percent of the time, the advertisers would be able to make a 60 percent accuracy claim,” they said. “It would be incumbent upon these marketers to make sure that their advertising conveyed that level of accuracy and did not suggest a stronger level of science to reasonable consumers.”