Smartphone apps for cancer: A content analysis of the digital health marketplace

Deborah H. Charbonneau, Shonee Hightower, Anne Katz, Ke Zhang, Judith Abrams, Nicole Senft, Jennifer L. Beebe-Dimmer, Elisabeth Heath, Tara Eaton, Hayley S. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the state of smartphone applications for cancer intended for the general public with a focus on interactive features, content sources, and application developer affiliations. The level of health provider involvement in screening or appraising application content was also assessed. Methods: A total of 123 apps were identified for analysis from two major mobile application marketplaces (Apple iTunes = 40; Google Play = 83). Application characteristics were collected, analyzed, and reported. These included the mobile platform, cost, application developer affiliation, date of last update, purpose of application, content sources, and interactive features. Results: In the study sample, 50% of the applications focused on general information for cancer (62/123). Next, this was followed by applications for breast cancer (15%, 19/123) and skin cancer (7%, 8/123). Only 10% of application descriptions (12/123) identified sources for application content. Interactive features included the ability to monitor symptoms, side effects, treatments, and chronic pain (20%, 25/123). Only 3% of the applications (4/123) stated content had been evaluated by health providers. Conclusions: This study contributes an updated analysis of applications for cancer available in the digital health marketplace. The findings have implications for information quality and supportive resources for cancer care. More transparent information about content sources, organizational affiliations, and level of health provider oversight in screening application content is warranted. Recommendations for improving the quality of cancer applications are also offered.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Health
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • digital health
  • information resources
  • mobile applications
  • oncology
  • quality


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