According to the National Cancer Institute, melanoma of the skin is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Many people want to keep an eye out for possible symptoms and take action fast, if necessary. So, could you make an app for that? Hmm, as “app”ealing as it sounds, hold the phone. In two cases, the developers of apps that purported to be melanoma detection tools – Mole Detective and MelApp – have settled the FTC’s charges that they did not have evidence to support such claims. The cases are based on the long-standing and well-settled principle that marketers need scientific substantiation to back up claims that their products offer health or disease-related benefits.
Each company claimed its app used a mathematical algorithm to measure the characteristics of moles for melanoma using these criteria: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolution or ABCDE for short. But the truth is that the companies had no evidence that their apps could actually detect melanoma – early or at all.
MelApp’s marketer, Health Discovery Corporation, agreed to settle the FTC’s charges, as did Mole Detective’s original marketers, Kristi Kimball and New Consumer Solutions LLC. Among the orders’ requirements are that the defendants must disgorge monies they received and substantiate any future melanoma detection claims with sufficiently rigorous human clinical testing of the device. The current marketers of Mole Detective, Avi Lasarow and his company L Health Ltd., did not agree to settle; the FTC will litigate its case against them.
We’ve said it before but it’s “app”ropriate to repeat: Before claiming your app – or any other product or service you’re selling – can detect, treat or cure any condition or change someone’s health, be sure you have the competent and reliable scientific evidence to support your claim.