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Tech Experts Warn Against Using AI in Breast Cancer Screenings

Graham Turner


Breast cancer AI
IT experts say that the use of artificial intelligence in breast cancer screening could lead to false diagnoses.

Scientists are currently analysing how AI could be integrated into the NHS’ systems, although IT experts say there is not enough evidence to justify leveraging the technology yet.

The UK’s chartered institute for IT – the BCS – says that the scientific community has to be more transparent about the readiness of AI for use in serious medical procedures, citing the “immaturity of most AI tools”.

Expanding on this point, Dr Philip Scott, chair of the BCS health and care executive, said: “While AI methods are promising, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to justify adoption in a cancer screening programme.

“Unfortunately, there is so much hype about AI that some people treat it like magic. Most AI in healthcare is early stage and not shown to work clinically.

“If you look at the scientific reviews, the experiments done with AI diagnostic tools are simply not good enough. Many studies are at risk of bias from selective use of patient data.

“If AI were adopted now in the screening of breast cancer, there is significant risk of overdiagnosis with all the anxiety that would cause.”


Dr Scott made the comments in response to a review by government advisory group the UK National Screening Committee, who weighed in on the viability of artificial intelligence in these kinds of procedures, saying the technology is, “a long way from the quality and quantity required for implementation of AI into clinical practice of breast screening programmes”.

Victims of breast cancer can usually be successfully and safely treated, if the issue is detected and diagnosed early. Unfortunately, early detection is currently challenging with the available technology. A disparity scientists are hoping AI can close.

Lord Ara Darzi of Denham, chief investigator on the project, said in June: “Our early work in this area has shown that using algorithms to screen for breast cancer is feasible. This next step will be our first real life test of AI as part of a national screening programme.”

Graham Turner

Sub Editor

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