Researchers have shown for the first time that a form of artificial intelligence or machine learning known as a deep learning convolutional neural network (CNN) is better than experienced dermatologists at detecting skin cancer.
In a study published in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncology  today (Tuesday), researchers in Germany, the USA and France trained a CNN to identify skin cancer by showing it more than 100,000 images of malignant melanomas (the most lethal form of skin cancer), as well as benign moles (or nevi). They compared its performance with that of 58 international dermatologists and found that the CNN missed fewer melanomas and misdiagnosed benign moles less often as malignant than the group of dermatologists.
A CNN is an artificial neural network inspired by the biological processes at work when nerve cells (neurons) in the brain are connected to each other and respond to what the eye sees. The CNN is capable of learning fast from images that it “sees” and teaching itself from what it has learned to improve its performance (a process known as machine learning).
The first author of the study, Professor Holger Haenssle, senior managing physician at the Department of Dermatology, University of Heidelberg, Germany, explained:
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