or the first time, new research suggests artificial intelligence may be better than highly-trained humans at detecting skin cancer. A study conducted by an international team of researchers pitted experienced dermatologists against a machine learning system, known as a deep learning convolutional neural network, or CNN, to see which was more effective at detecting malignant melanomas.

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Fifty-eight dermatologists from 17 countries around the world participated in the study. More than half of the doctors were considered expert level with more than five years’ experience. Nineteen percent said they had between two to five years’ experience, and 29 percent had less than two years’ experience.

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At first look, dermatologists correctly detected an average of 87 percent of melanomas, and accurately identified an average of 73 percent of lesions that were not malignant. Conversely, the CNN correctly detected 95 percent of melanomas.

Things improved a bit for the dermatologists when they were given additional information about the patients along with the photos; then they accurately diagnosed 89 percent of malignant melanomas and 76 percent of benign moles. Still, they were outperformed by the artificial intelligence system, which was working solely from the images.

“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,” study author Professor Holger Haenssle, senior managing physician in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, said in a statement.

The expert dermatologists performed better in the initial round of diagnoses than the less-experienced doctors at identifying malignant melanomas. But their average of correct diagnoses was still worse than the AI system’s.

Source: AI better than dermatologists at detecting skin cancer, study finds – CBS News