Health Buzz: Don’t Rely on Apps to Diagnose Skin Cancer

Making sense of the stats on binge drinking; diets that don’t work—and a look at what does


Skin-Cancer Apps No Substitution for a Dermatologist's Diagnosis

Suspicious of that oddly-shaped mole? Assessing it for skin cancer with a mobile app probably shouldn't determine the final verdict on your health, according to a study released Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology. Researchers tested the accuracy of four smartphone apps, which are marketed as educational tools that determine if skin lesions are cancerous. Three of the apps use algorithms and cost under $5, while the fourth charges users $5 for each lesion picture, which is sent to a certified dermatologist for diagnosis, according to Reuters. When researchers tested the apps with 188 pre-diagnosed lesions, the most accurate algorithm apps still misdiagnosed 18 of 60 melanoma cases as being lower risk than they were. The consultation-based app pereformed better, by misdiagnosing just one of 53 lesions. The best bet for an accurate skin cancer reading? A real-life doctor. Karen Edison, a University of Missouri dermatologist, told Reuters, "There's no substitute, at this point, for a complete skin exam performed by an expert dermatologist for picking up melanoma as well as other skin cancers."

Making Sense of the Stats on Binge Drinking

The trouble with statistics is that each morsel of information raises an infinite number of questions. To make any sense of it, you often need a good bit of related data to avoid a partial picture that distorts the view.

So, when it comes to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recent report on binge drinking in America, U.S. News aims to provide you with a fuller picture of the problem.

For starters, binge drinking is defined, for females, as four or more drinks on one occasion, and, for males, five or more­­. These quantities are generally considered to raise the blood-alcohol level to (or even well over) .08, the legal limit for driving.

While binge drinking has long been associated with men and boys, it is, in fact, a common occurrence among females; one in eight women and one in five high school girls engage in the behavior, leading to some 23,000 deaths among American women and girls each year. [Read more: Making Sense of the Stats on Binge Drinking]

Diets That Don't Work—And A Look At What Does

Fad diets are just that: fads. Although I still like my hula-hoop and I'd enjoy dancing the twist, fads are only successful while they last, and then … they're gone, writes U.S. News blogger Bonnie Taub-Dix. Diets, on the other hand, cannot be fads. We don't want good health to come and go, nor do we want to shoot for success that will be temporary and perhaps even cause more harm than good.

For more than three decades, I've been highlighting the warning signs of potentially damaging diets to my clients. Here are some tips to help you proceed with caution as you're trying to drop pounds safely:

1. Avoid plans that make false promises. If you're told you'll "lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes," walk away.

2. Stay away from sales pitches. Testimonials are advertisements, and often based upon making money, not supporting the truth.

3. Don't starve your weight away. Diets that provide fewer than 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,500 calories a day for men may be nutritionally inadequate. Your initial feeling of euphoria from severe calorie restriction may be a result of lightheadedness. [Read more: Diets That Don't Work—And A Look At What Does]

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