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Artificial intelligence making skin cancer detection easier, more efficient

The boss of a melanoma surveillance company is finally convinced that artificial intelligence will help his industry save more lives.

MoleMap co-founder and chief executive Adrian Bowling said there was not enough dermatologists in New Zealand to give every person here a skin check.

Even if there was, finding a cancerous mole was like finding a "needle in a haystack," he said.
MoleMap dermatologists download photos of moles to IBM's Watson software which rules out benign lesions and highlights ...

MoleMap dermatologists download photos of moles to IBM's Watson software which rules out benign lesions and highlights potentially cancerous ones.

Bowling said his company's collaboration with technology company International Business Machine's (IBM) since 2015 had bridged that skills shortage and reduced the size of the haystack.

For five years, MoleMap dermatologists have been taking photos of their patients skin lesions with a camera the company developed. They now add the photos to IBM's artificial intelligence Watson software which identifies whether or not the lesions are benign or cancerous.

Bowling called the software "another pair of eyes" to detect skin cancer early.

He said it saved the specialists time and let them focus on dangerous melanoma cases. This was crucial because within months a lesion could deepen by millimetres and become life threatening, he said.

Bowling said the artificial intelligence (AI) technology would not rid of a dermatologists occupation, it was aiding their job.

"There might be something that Watson has learnt that a dermatologist has not. It augments their decision making."
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IBM Research Australia and New Zealand chief technology officer Joanna Batstone said advancing healthcare was top of mind for the company when it set up a laboratory in Melbourne.

When IBM partnered with MoleMap , she said Bowling was "a bit of a sceptic".

"We were not sure how significant the results would be … that first six to nine months was understanding the art of the possible."

Bowling said he was now "more than convinced" that AI could save more lives than any number of dermatologists could on their own.

"It will be a big focus of the company [going forward]."

IBM's Asia Pacific Watson Health executive Terry Sweeney said at an IBM conference on Wednesday that oncologists would have to read 29 hours, seven days a week, to keep their knowledge up to scratch with clinical trials and developments.

He said AI technology can be used to digest and narrow that information down and tell cancer specialists in remote areas what they need to know.

Watson Health has set a mandate to revolutionise medical care for cancer sufferers. The software's ability to analyse large amounts of data quickly will provide oncologists with more treatment solutions for individual patients.

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