Artificial intelligence is better than specialist doctors at diagnosing lung cancer, a US study suggests, according to the BBC.
The researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois and Google hope the technology could boost the effectiveness of cancer screening.
Finding tumours at an earlier stage should make them easier to treat.
The team said AI would have a ‘huge’ role in the future of medicine, but the current software is not yet ready for clinical use.
The study focused on lung cancer, which kills more people – 1.8 million a year – than any other type of cancer.
It is why the US recommends screening for people at high risk because of years of heavy smoking.
However, screening can result in invasive biopsies for people who turn out not to have cancer, and also misses some tumours.
The study used artificial intelligence to see if the analysis of scans could be improved.
The first step was to train the computer software with 42,290 CT lung scans from nearly 15,000 patients.
The researchers did not tell the AI what to look for, just which patients went on to get cancer and which did not.
The AI was then tested against a team of six radiologists who made a career out of analysing CT scans.
It was more effective than the radiologists when examining a single CT scan and was equally effective when doctors had multiple scans to go on.
The results, in Nature Medicine, showed the AI could boost cancer detection by 5% while also cutting false-positives (people falsely diagnosed with cancer) by 11%.