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J Med Internet Res. 2018 Apr 13;20(4):e135. doi: 10.2196/jmir.9392.

Use of Smartphones for Early Detection of Melanoma: Systematic Review.

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Department of General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nantes, Nantes, France.
Unit 1232 - Team 2, Centre de Recherche en Cancérologie, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Nantes, France.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Nantes University Hospital, CHU Nantes, Nantes, France.
Oncodermatology Department, Nantes University Hospital, CHU Nantes, Nantes, France.



The early diagnosis of melanoma is associated with decreased mortality. The smartphone, with its apps and the possibility of sending photographs to a dermatologist, could improve the early diagnosis of melanoma.


The aim of our review was to report the evidence on (1) the diagnostic performance of automated smartphone apps and store-and-forward teledermatology via a smartphone in the early detection of melanoma, (2) the impact on the patient's medical-care course, and (3) the feasibility criteria (focusing on the modalities of picture taking, transfer of data, and time to get a reply).


We conducted a systematic search of PubMed for the period from January 1, 2007 (launch of the first smartphone) to November 1, 2017.


The results of the 25 studies included 13 concentrated on store-and-forward teledermatology, and 12 analyzed automated smartphone apps. Store-and-forward teledermatology opens several new perspectives, such as it accelerates the care course (less than 10 days vs 80 days), and the related procedures were assessed in primary care populations. However, the concordance between the conclusion of a teledermatologist and the conclusion of a dermatologist who conducts a face-to-face examination depended on the study (the kappa coefficient range was .20 to .84, median κ=.60). The use of a dermoscope may improve the concordance (the kappa coefficient range was .29 to .87, median κ=.74). Regarding automated smartphone apps, the major concerns are the lack of assessment in clinical practice conditions, the lack of assessment in primary care populations, and their low sensitivity, ranging from 7% to 87% (median 69%). In this literature review, up to 20% of the photographs transmitted were of insufficient quality. The modalities of picture taking and encryption of the data were only partially reported.


The use of store-and-forward teledermatology could improve access to a dermatology consultation by optimizing the care course. Our review confirmed the absence of evidence of the safety and efficacy of automated smartphone medical apps. Further research is required to determine quality criteria, as there was major variability among the studies.


melanoma; mobile app; screening; smartphone; teledermatology; telemedicine

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