FTC slaps MelApp (health app) with fine for falsely claiming to determine skin cancer risk

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MelApp
MelApp

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a final order against MelApp for a deceptive claim that it could diagnose or assess a person’s risk of melanoma through its mobile app.

MelApp, a $1.99 iOS app, launched in 2011, claimed to give a risk assessment for melanoma on your skin. The App makes you take a picture of a suspicious mole with your camera. Label it, mark the diameter, and indicate how fast the mole’s evolution has been. Click on the “Check Risk” button. The image is uploaded to a server and run through an image analysis risk assessment process. According to the app’s developer, MelApp has been validated using an image database licensed from John Hopkins University Medical Center.

But now, the startup will be fined $18K and will be barred from asserting that its app is capable of detecting or diagnosing potential moles or skin lesions as cancerous unless they can support their claims with legitimate scientific evidence.

MelApp first received attention when it launched in 2011 as an early melanoma detection system. The app was created by Health Discovery Corporation and leverages John Hopkins’ image database to diagnose users.

In February, the FTC took action against both MelApp and competitor app Mole Detective for claiming to be able to accurately assess a potential melanoma based on a photograph and a few questions.

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.

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Scientist-entrepreneur-manager-journalist: -Co-founder, Author; Former Assistant Editor and Director, Biotechin.Asia, Biotech Media Pte. Ltd.; -Founder & CEO, SciGlo (www.sciglo.com); -Programme Management Officer, SBIC, A*STAR (former Research Fellow). --Sandhya graduated from University of Madras, India (B.Sc Microbiology and M.Sc Biotechnology) and received her Ph.D from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She worked on oxidative stress in skin, skeletal, adipose tissue and cardiac muscle for a decade from 2006-2016. She is currently working as a Programme Management Officer handling projects and grants at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Earlier to this she was a Research Fellow in the Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at SBIC. Sandhya was also the Vice President and Publicity Chair of A*PECSS (A*STAR Post Doc Society) (2014-2016). Recently she founded a platform for scientists - SciGlo (www.sciglo.com) and is a startup mentor at Vertical VC (Finland). She is an ardent lover of science and enjoys globe trotting and good vegetarian food.