Melanoma app fined by FTC for deceptive claims (US)

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Following on Editor Charles’ reporting since February on two ‘melanoma detection’ apps cited by the US Federal Trade Commission as making unsupported claims on diagnosis of assessment of melanoma risks, one of the two, MelApp, has been fined approximately $18,000, deciding 4-1 in a final consent order. MelApp, an iOS and Android app developed by Health Discovery Corporation and retailing for $1.99, claimed without proof that it could assess skin lesion risk (low, medium, high) through a smartphone photo plus questions about the mark. From the FTC release: “The final order settling the action bars the company from claiming that any device detects or diagnoses melanoma or its risk factors, or increases users’ chances of early detection, unless the representation is not misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It also prohibits Health Discovery Corporation from making any other deceptive claims about a device’s health benefits or efficacy, or about the scientific support for any product or service….” No word on a final consent order against Mole Detective, but we believe it will follow shortly. FTC press release. Previously in TTA: Action on bad apps, Mole Detective still available, and Mole Detective vanishes. Photo courtesy of the 23 February FTC release

All the sillier then that the VentureBeat article on the FTC action takes the tack that “The fine shows how difficult it will be for future mobile entrepreneurs to launch health apps that go beyond basic fitness and heart rate monitoring.” No, but these aren’t tip calculators or work organizers. When it comes to health, caveat emptor only goes so far–apps need to do what they claim and prove it. Especially when it comes to potentially deadly melanomas. Thus the need for improved trade scrutiny, review and internal approval before marketing in the two major Apple and Google stores. (The model this Editor considers the best would be the equivalent of strict pre-cable broadcast standards and practices.)

(Searching on Google Play, this Editor does not see MelApp nor Mole Detective, but others like Doctor Mole, Skin Mole Analysis and MySkinPal which seem to operate the same way.)

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  1. MySkinPal representative here. Your last paragraph is somewhat erroneous in regard to our app. The FTC and the FDA are concerned (and rightfully so) about the claims that apps might make in regard to *diagnosing* skin cancer. Those that do are potentially dangerous for a patient’s health, since a false negative could result in patients delaying their appointment with a medical professional. Apps such as MySkinPal, which provide a way for people to track their skin moles but do not attempt to suggest in any way whether a lesion is malicious or not, are classified under Section B4 of FDA’s mobile medical app guidance: Mobile apps that are specifically marketed to help patients document, show, or communicate to providers potential medical conditions. Please refer to this page for more information:

    Also see how our app works: