Early diagnosis of skin cancer lesions by dermoscopy, the gold standard in dermatological imaging, calls for a diagnostic upscale. The aim of the study was to improve the accuracy of dermoscopic skin cancer diagnosis through use of novel deep learning (DL) algorithms. An additional sonification-derived diagnostic layer was added to the visual classification to increase sensitivity.


Two parallel studies were conducted: a laboratory retrospective study (LABS, n = 482 biopsies) and a non-interventional prospective observational study (OBS, n = 63 biopsies). A training data set of biopsy-verified reports, normal and cancerous skin lesions (n = 3954), were used to develop a DL classifier exploring visual features (System A). The outputs of the classifier were sonified, i.e. data conversion into sound (System B). Derived sound files were analyzed by a second machine learning classifier, either as raw audio (LABS, OBS) or following conversion into spectrograms (LABS) and by image analysis and human heuristics (OBS). The OBS criteria outcomes were System A specificity and System B sensitivity as raw sounds, spectrogram areas or heuristics.


LABS employed dermoscopies, half benign half malignant, and compared the accuracy of Systems A and B. System A algorithm resulted in a ROC AUC of 0.976 (95% CI, 0.965–0.987). Secondary machine learning analysis of raw sound, FFT and Spectrogram ROC curves resulted in AUC's of 0.931 (95% CI 0.881–0.981), 0.90 (95% CI 0.838–0.963) and 0.988 (CI 95% 0.973–1.001), respectively. OBS analysis of raw sound dermoscopies by the secondary machine learning resulted in a ROC AUC of 0.819 (95% CI, 0.7956 to 0.8406). OBS image analysis of AUC for spectrograms displayed a ROC AUC of 0.808 (CI 95% 0.6945 To 0.9208). By applying a heuristic analysis of Systems A and B a sensitivity of 86% and specificity of 91% were derived in the clinical study.


Adding a second stage of processing, which includes a deep learning algorithm of sonification and heuristic inspection with machine learning, significantly improves diagnostic accuracy. A combined two-stage system is expected to assist clinical decisions and de-escalate the current trend of over-diagnosis of skin cancer lesions as pathological.


The Lancet, EBioMEdicine; February 2019, Volume 40, Pages 176–183