Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
While skin cancer is highly treatable when diagnosed early, it can be deadly. On average, one American dies from melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer every hour. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime, and it is estimated that more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
Researchers recently discovered that artificial intelligence (AI) improves skin cancer diagnostic accuracy when used in collaboration with human clinical checks when they tested for the first time whether a real world, collaborative approach involving clinicians assisted by AI improved the accuracy of skin cancer clinical decision making.
The highest diagnostic accuracy was achieved when crowd wisdom and AI predictions were combined, suggesting human-AI and crowd-AI collaborations were preferable to individual experts or AI alone
"This is important because AI decision support has slowly started to infiltrate healthcare settings, and yet few studies have tested its performance in real world settings or how clinicians interact with it," says Monika Janda, University of Queensland professor.
"Inexperienced evaluators gained the highest benefit from AI decision support. Expert evaluators confident in skin cancer diagnosis achieved modest or no benefit. These findings indicated a combined AI-human approach to skin cancer diagnosis may be the most relevant for clinicians in the future."
AI Diagnostic software to improve skin cancer diagnosis
AI diagnostic software has demonstrated expert-level accuracy in several image-based medical studies, but researchers have remained unclear on whether its use improved clinical practice. They trained and tested an artificial convolutional neural network to analyze pigmented skin lesions, and compared the findings with human evaluations on three types of AI-based decision support.
"Our study found that good quality AI support was useful to clinicians but needed to be simple, concrete, and in accordance with a given task," Janda added.
"For clinicians of the future this means that AI-based screening and diagnosis might soon be available to support them on a daily basis. Implementation of any AI software needs extensive testing to understand the impact it has on clinical decision making."
Allergic responses may protect against skin cancer
Research led by Imperial College London revealed that previously unknown skin defenses could open avenues for developing new skin cancer treatments. The components of the immune system that trigger allergic reactions may also help protect the skin against cancer.
The study - published in the journal Nature Immunology - may also provide clues into why allergies are on the rise. Their findings support the so-called “Toxin Hypothesis” which proposes that exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals foreign to our body may trigger allergic responses.
The research focused on a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E - IgE. This protein - part of the immune system - triggers allergic reactions by mistakenly recognizing a harmless substance as a danger.
A full-blown attack is launched by the body, under instruction from IgE, resulting in skin rashes and swelling of face, mouth and in severe cases the airway.
Despite the actions of IgE having such serious consequences in the body, scientists are still puzzled by its original role and whether it serves any useful purpose.
The research suggests the antibody may have a crucial role in defending against the damage caused by environmental chemicals and thereby protects against cancer. The IgE - triggered by the skin exposure to toxic agents - accumulates at the skin site and prevents damaged cells from turning into cancerous tumors.
“IgE must have some important role in the body but at the moment scientists are still unclear what it is,” says Dr. Jessica Strid, lead author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial. “We used to think it protects us against parasites such as intestinal worms and the lack of worm infections is causing the allergy rise. However, after previous work suggested the body can still fight parasites without IgE, we don't now believe this to be the only purpose.
"Our new work suggests IgE could protect against the damage caused by skin exposure to tumor-promoting chemicals or UV irradiation and help fight against skin cancer."
Skin cancer findings
The team found that placing a toxic chemical on mouse skin caused IgE to be induced and travel to the site of damage. Once there, IgE lowered the risk of cancer development in the skin.
They also studied skin tumors from 12 patients with squamous cell carcinoma - the second most common type of skin cancer. Results showed all tumors, some of which were more aggressive than others, had IgE present.
Further analysis of a larger cohort of patients showed that less dangerous or “low risk” tumors had more IgE-carrying cells, while more serious tumors had less, suggesting IgE may be offering some kind of protective effect against the progression of the cancer.
"This is just the beginning of the story,” Strid added. “Our next step is to find out how exactly IgE may stop skin cells turning cancerous, and to see if we can somehow manipulate the allergic response to either protect against, or treat skin cancer."
"Our work raises a lot of questions and we now have to set about answering them. But the initial results support the so-called Toxin Hypothesis, which suggests that chemicals in the environment, such as those in air pollution, arising from industrial combustion and car emissions, as well as from tobacco smoke, could damage the skin and cause a rise in IgE.
The theory suggests this rise in IgE may play a role in the alarming increase in allergies over the last decades.
“IgE may have evolved to kick into action when the skin touched something toxic,” Strid said. "It may be that the IgE would trigger a rash, or a stronger unpleasant response, when the skin contacts something potentially poisonous. This would send a clear message to the body saying this is harmful - don't touch that again."
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.