Published: Thu, May 31, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Artificial Intelligence Can Spot Skin Cancer Better Than Doctors Now


Berlin, May 29 An artificial intelligence system can better detect skin cancer than experienced dermatologists, a study has found.

More than 100,000 images of malignant and benign skin cancers and moles were shown to the network along with the diagnosis for each image.

"The CNN missed fewer melanomas, meaning it had a higher sensitivity than the dermatologists", said Holger Haenssle, the first author of the researcher's paper and an academic at the University of Heidelberg, noted The Guardian. It's an AI system that works similarly to nerve cells in the brain, learning from images it sees and continuously improving its performance.

On average, the dermatologists correctly detected around 86.6 percent of melanomas while the CNN identified 95 percent of them. They also believe there are 232,000 new cases of skin cancer and 55,500 deaths are reported each year.

A form of artificial intelligence was taught to recognize signs of the disease after being shown more than 100,000 images of melanoma.

The 58 dermatologists involved in the study came from a variety of backgrounds and 17 countries. The gap isn't as big as you would think, but the fact that it was able to pick up on skin cancer close to 10% more than regular doctors, it could mean more lives are saved. After the dermatologists were provided clinical information about the patients such as their age, their sex, and the location of the lesion, their success rate in diagnosing melanoma increased to 88.9 percent. Most dermatologists already use digital dermoscopy systems to image and store lesions for documentation and follow-up.


Health officials say the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing in recent years.

"After finishing the training, we created two test sets of images from the Heidelberg library that had never been used for training and therefore were unknown to the CNN".

Australian experts Victoria Mar, from Melbourne's Monash University, and Peter Soyer from the University of Queensland said it was a major breakthrough in detecting skin cancers.

The researchers used a type of AI known as a convolutional neural network, which learns over time, rather than having to be programmed like typical software. The CNN also had some limitations of its own, such as poor performance with images of melanomas on certain sites such as the fingers, toes, and scalp.

That being said, these impressive results indicate that we're about to experience a paradigm shift, not only in dermatology but in just about every medical field, thanks to developments in artificial intelligence.

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