The Particulars: Evidence suggests that the development and use of healthcare-related applications (apps) is rapidly growing, causing confusion among patients and providers over which to use. Scientific validation is not required before publishing apps in mobile stores. Few studies have analyzed mobile apps that are dedicated to oncology, including whether they have been validated by a healthcare professional.

Data Breakdown: French investigators searched the iTunes and Google Play mobile stores using “cancer,” “oncology,” and “chemotherapy” as search terms in December 2013. Of 539 apps that were available in English, 34% were focused on one type of cancer localization, 47% were directed at caregivers, 31% were directed at the general public, and 22% were directed at patients. The average time since an app’s last update was 14 months, with 46% of apps having not been updated at all in 2013. Implying that a health professional was used in the app development was mentioned in the profiles of 52% of professional apps, 27% of patient apps, and 19% of general public apps.

Take Home Pearls: Many oncology-focused mobile apps do not appear to be scientifically validated. Healthcare providers and patients should be cautious about medical and scientific content that they receive from mobile apps. They are also recommended to look for developers who clarify the methodology and validation process of their apps.