Computer with a 'mind' could help save your life

Amazing news for you, not so great news for some dermatologists, as scientist have created an artificial intelligence that can diagnose skin cancers as well as a real person.

The recently published study said that the computer scientists pit the computer’s AI up against 21 trained medical professionals and the AI match their skill perfectly.  The AI was created after a computer database of over 129,000 images of skin diseases was created the program was taught to spot them.

Co-author of the study, Andre Esteva told the ABC, “What makes the algorithm strong is the fact that they are trained on massive amounts of data”.   He then added, “We would have to collect more data, different data, for another trial to see what it would really take to push the accuracy even further”.

According to the study, “the estimated five-year survival rate for melanoma drops from over 99 per cent if detected in its earliest stages to about 14 per cent if detected in its latest stages”.  This is the aim of the AI development is to provide a “universal” health application.  Mr Esteva said, “What we’re really working towards here is universal access to healthcare — this is a technology that could extend the reach of providers”.

While some would see this as the end of the skin cancer detecting dermatologists experts are saying “not yet.”  Dermatologist Dr Natasha Cook told the ABC, “You can’t be completely reliant on technology because there are certain things that will actually defy standards and require a history and require human input so that you don’t miss things”.  An example given by Dr Cook was a 15-year-old whose mole passed all the regular tests but Dr Cook had a feeling there was more.  She told the ABC, “And I said, ‘Well, with that information, let’s do a biopsy’.

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“And he had a 1.78-millimetre thickness melanoma, in a 15-year-old boy.

“If I hadn’t taken the history, if I hadn’t listened to the mum, the 15-year-old boy would ended up having a metastatic melanoma and dying.

“People aren’t always cookie-cutter in the way they present.”