Purpose Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most frequent keratinocyte-origin skin tumor. It is confirmed that dermoscopy of NMSC confers a diagnostic advantage as compared to visual face-to-face assessment. COVID-19 restrictions diagnostics by telemedicine photos, which are analogous to visual inspection, displaced part of in-person visits. This study evaluated by a dual convolutional neural network (CNN) performance metrics in dermoscopic (DI) versus smartphone-captured images (SI) and tested if artificial intelligence narrows the proclaimed gap in diagnostic accuracy.
Methods A CNN that receives a raw image and predicts malignancy, overlaid by a second independent CNN which processes a sonification (image-to-sound mapping) of the original image, were combined into a unified malignancy classifier. All images were histopathology-verified in a comparison between NMSC and benign skin lesions excised as suspected NMSCs. Study criteria outcomes were sensitivity and specificity for the unified output.
Results Images acquired by DI (n = 132 NMSC, n = 33 benign) were compared to SI (n = 170 NMSC, n = 28 benign). DI and SI analysis metrics resulted in an area under the curve (AUC) of the receiver operator characteristic curve of 0.911 and 0.821, respectively. Accuracy was increased by DI (0.88; CI 81.9–92.4) as compared to SI (0.75; CI 68.1–80.6, p < 0.005). Sensitivity of DI was higher than SI (95.3%, CI 90.4–98.3 vs 75.3%, CI 68.1–81.6, p < 0.001), but not specificity (p = NS). Conclusion Telemedicine use of smartphone images might result in a substantial decrease in diagnostic performance as compared to dermoscopy, which needs to be considered by both healthcare providers and patients.
Keywords Preventive medicine · Deep learning · Sonification · Non-melanoma skin cancer · Dermoscopy · Telemedicine


Dascalu, A., Walker, B.N., Oron, Y. et al. Non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis: a comparison between dermoscopic and smartphone images by unified visual and sonification deep learning algorithms. Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00432-021-03809-x