By Hannah Kuchler
Google Health has developed a system that can identify breast cancer more accurately than radiologists, in the latest sign that artificial intelligence could improve early detection of disease in images. In a paper published in the scientific journal Nature, experts from Google Health, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, and UK and US universities showed the AI model reduced both false positives, in which patients are wrongly told they have cancer, as well as false negatives, where the disease is present but not diagnosed. Screening mammograms is known to be imperfect, failing to detect about one in five breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. More than half of all women are given a false positive every 10 years, causing anxiety and leading to unnecessary treatment, which was estimated in a 2015 study in the journal Health Affairs to cost the US more than $4bn a year. Dominic King, the UK lead for Google Health, said the results were “really exciting” and showed how AI could be used to help screen for cancers in earlier stages, when the disease is harder to detect accurately. The algorithm was trained and tested on de-identified images from almost 120,000 mammograms in the US and the UK.