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Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive

The Federal Trade Commission charges several promoters of supposed melanoma-detection apps with deceptive marketing and says they must provide evidence to back up their claims.

The FTC says those behind supposed melanoma-detection apps, such as Health Discovery's MelApp, must provide scientific evidence before making claims about their product's efficacy. Health Discovery Corporation

A wave of your smartphone won't tell you if you're sick, have a broken bone or, apparently, if you have melanoma.

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday said it has taken action against the marketers of smartphone apps that claim they can detect melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. Several thousand people have purchased the apps.

The apps claim that by a taking a picture of a mole and providing certain other information, users could determine how big the chances are that a mole is cancerous, even in its early stages. But the FTC said the app marketers lacked testing to show that the apps worked as claimed.

"Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps."

Promoters of MelApp and Mole Detective agreed to settle the FTC's charges of deceptive marketing. They're prohibited from making such claims without scientific evidence to back them up.

However, the FTC said it will be suing U.K.-based businessman Avrom "Avi" Lasarow and his company, L Health, after the agency failed to reach a settlement with them. Lasarow took over marketing Mole Detective in August 2012, the FTC said.

Mole Detective developer Kristi Kimball and her company, New Consumer Solutions, sold the app from January 2012 until Lasarow and his company stepped in. Kimball and New Consumer Solutions agreed to a settlement prohibiting them from making unsubstantiated claims and must give back about $4,000 in app sales.

Mole Detective has been sold for up to $4.99 in Apple's App Store and on Google's rival Google Play.

MelApp, sold by Health Discovery since 2011 for $1.99, also agreed to a settlement prohibiting misleading claims. The FTC added that the company must give back $18,000 in sales.

This story originally posted as "Feds crack down on melanoma detector apps" on CBS MoneyWatch.