The authors of this study wanted to investigate the purpose and content of cancer-focussed smartphone apps, and evidence on their effectiveness.
They conducted a systematic review of the official application stores for the four major smartphone platforms: iPhone, Android, Nokia, and BlackBerry. Apps were included in the review if they were focused on cancer and available for use by the general public.
This was complemented by a systematic review of literature from MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Library to identify evaluations of cancer-related smartphone apps. A total of 295 apps from the smartphone app stores met the inclusion criteria.
The majority of apps targeted breast cancer (46.8%, 138/295) or cancer in general (28.5%, 84/295).
The reported app purpose was predominantly to raise awareness about cancer (32.2%, 95/295) or to provide educational information about cancer (26.4%, 78/295), followed by apps to support fundraising efforts (12.9%, 38/295), assist in early detection (11.5%, 34/295), promote a charitable organization (10.2%, 30/295), support disease management (3.7%, 11/295), cancer prevention (2.0%, 6/295), or social support (1.0%, 3/295).
The review of the health literature yielded 594 articles, none of which reported an evaluation of a cancer-focused smartphone application.
The article concludes that there are hundreds of cancer-focused apps with the potential to enhance efforts to promote behaviour change, to monitor a host of symptoms and physiological indicators of disease, and to provide real-time supportive interventions, conveniently and at low cost. However, there is currently a lack of evidence on their utility, effectiveness, and safety.
The full article can be read here.