More patients would prefer artificial intelligence to assess them for skin cancer than wait to see a doctor

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • 62 per cent of respondents said they’d prefer to be assessed by AI than a doctor

Most people would rather have artificial intelligence (AI) assess them for skin cancer than wait to see a doctor in person, a survey suggests.

Last month, the NHS announced plans to expand the use of the technology, which can analyse images for signs of the disease.

Studies show that AI is just as accurate as a doctor at spotting skin cancer and can complete the assessment in seconds, potentially saving thousands of hours of cancer specialists’ time and cutting waiting lists.

Currently, patients considered at urgent risk of the disease have to wait about two weeks for a scan. Non-urgent patients can wait months.

However, experts say there were concerns that patients would be unwilling to let AI software check them for cancer because they did not trust the technology was accurate.

Most people would rather have artificial intelligence ( AI ) assess them for skin cancer than wait to see a doctor in person, a survey suggests

Melanoma kills about 2,300 people in the UK every year, while squamous cell carcinoma leads to about 1,000 deaths

Melanoma kills about 2,300 people in the UK every year, while squamous cell carcinoma leads to about 1,000 deaths

But new research shows that 62 per cent of patients would rather see an AI than wait weeks to see a doctor.

Nearly 80 per cent said they were confident a computer could assist doctors analysing photos of possible skin cancer. Just 15 per cent said the prospect of having scans assessed by computer made them uncomfortable.

There are about one million urgent skin cancer referrals on the NHS every year. This is usually after patients – or their GPs – notice a new skin lesion, an abnormal lump, bump, ulcer or sore on the skin.

While most lesions will not be cancerous, about eight per cent of people referred for a scan will be diagnosed with melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common skin cancers.

Melanoma kills about 2,300 people in the UK every year, while squamous cell carcinoma leads to about 1,000 deaths.

The survey of 300 people was carried out by AI firm Skin Analytics, whose skin cancer detecting software DERM is already used in the NHS.

The software analyses images of skin lesions and then decides whether it is a low-risk case – which means the patient will be told they need no further investigation – or high-risk – meaning a consultant dermatologist will then take on the case in order to make a diagnosis.

‘There’s an urgent need for solutions to help dermatologists prioritise the early detection of skin cancers,’ says Dr Lucy Thomas, consultant dermatologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

‘Encouragingly, the findings show us that patients are ready to embrace AI, to support decision-making and ease some of the burden on NHS services.’

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