Computer outdoes dermatologists in detecting melanoma

Technology detects deadly melanomas 35 per cent more accurately than doctors.

Computer outdoes dermatologists in detecting melanoma

Do you dread trips to the skin doctor where you get semi-naked while they get up close and personal with all your sun spots and moles?

The good news is that there have been impressive advances in artificial intelligence (AI) that can make non-intrusive checks for melanoma and the technology is significantly more accurate at detecting the cancer than a dermatologist.

In fact, the German-researched AI – also known as convolutional neural network (CNN) – detected lesions with 95 per cent accuracy, compared with human skin specialists who correctly diagnosed just 71 per cent of cases.  

The discovery was made by scientists at the University of Heidelberg. They showed 58 dermatologists from across the world and an AI program more than 100,000 images of malignant melanomas and harmless moles. More than half the doctors had five years or more of clinical experience.

"The CNN works like the brain of a child," according to Professor Holger Haenssle, senior managing physician at the university’s Department of Dermatology. He explained that the program was taught to recognise which images indicated a cancer and which did not.

"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," Professor  Haenssle said.

"One set of 300 images was built to solely test the performance of the CNN. Before doing so, 100 of the most difficult lesions were selected to test real dermatologists in comparison to the results of the CNN.

"The CNN missed fewer melanomas, meaning it had a higher sensitivity than the dermatologists, and it misdiagnosed fewer benign moles as malignant melanoma, which means it had a higher specificity; this would result in less unnecessary surgery," he said Professor Haenssle.

"These findings show that deep learning convolutional neural networks are capable of out-performing dermatologists, including extensively trained experts, in the task of detecting melanomas,” he said.

However, the researchers said that the difficulty in creating images on sites such as fingers, toes and scalps means that it will be a while before AI becomes the standard in clinics.

"Currently, there is no substitute for a thorough clinical examination," they said.

Do you visit a skin doctor regularly and if so, what is the worst part of the examination? Would you trust artificial intelligence over your dermatologist’s expertise to diagnose melanoma?

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    COMMENTS

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    Sen.Cit.90
    31st May 2018
    10:29am
    I visit a clinic at six-month intervals and have no qualms whatever. Even though I'm seldom in the sun these days. Latent Sunspots from my days of bowling are found and treated.
    MICK
    31st May 2018
    11:14am
    Likely the long waiting times for a real dermatologist might also be gone. A win win but I wonder at the cost of the equipment and how that translates through to the hip pocket.
    Rosret
    31st May 2018
    11:33am
    Of course not Mick, but at least we won't get sliced and diced unnecessarily which has been the case with most in my family's experience.
    Anonymous
    31st May 2018
    12:29pm
    I am not concerned about slicing and dicing, Rosret, to me it's the same as having an x-ray. Just another tool in the medicine cupboard to identify or eliminate an unknown anomaly in the body.
    Anonymous
    31st May 2018
    1:53pm
    I suspect a dermatologist isn't much better than a good GP at detecting Melanoma.
    Nan Norma
    31st May 2018
    2:00pm
    A dermatologist is looking at skin all day every day. A GP is not. And look, you are wearing more than many people do on the beach.
    Rosret
    31st May 2018
    2:28pm
    Hehe You must have some very painful Xrays Old Man. Even the cost of the biopsy and removal is quite expensive whether the patient or the government picks up the bill.
    Anonymous
    31st May 2018
    4:32pm
    My GP is very good , she found a melanoma and removed it at the early stages, but I suspect not all GPs are as good.
    MICK
    1st Jun 2018
    10:34am
    Show me where is ONE machine in the country to do this?????
    Rosret
    31st May 2018
    11:30am
    Good news indeed.