IBM J. Res. Dev

Deep learning ensembles for melanoma recognition in dermoscopy images

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Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. While curable with early detection, only highly trained specialists are capable of accurately recognizing the disease. As expertise is in limited supply, automated systems capable of identifying disease could save lives, reduce unnecessary biopsies, and reduce costs. Toward this goal, we propose a system that combines recent developments in deep learning with established machine learning approaches, creating ensembles of methods that are capable of segmenting skin lesions, as well as analyzing the detected area and surrounding tissue for melanoma detection. The system is evaluated using the largest publicly available benchmark dataset of dermoscopic images, containing 900 training and 379 testing images. New state-of-the-art performance levels are demonstrated, leading to an improvement in the area under receiver operating characteristic curve of 7.5% (0.843 versus 0.783), in average precision of 4% (0.649 versus 0.624), and in specificity measured at the clinically relevant 95% sensitivity operating point 2.9 times higher than the previous state of the art (36.8% specificity compared to 12.5%). Compared to the average of eight expert dermatologists on a subset of 100 test images, the proposed system produces a higher accuracy (76% versus 70.5%), and specificity (62% versus 59%) evaluated at an equivalent sensitivity (82%).