The performance of SolarScan: an automated dermoscopy image analysis instrument for the diagnosis of primary melanoma

Arch Dermatol. 2005 Nov;141(11):1388-96. doi: 10.1001/archderm.141.11.1388.


Objective: To describe the diagnostic performance of SolarScan (Polartechnics Ltd, Sydney, Australia), an automated instrument for the diagnosis of primary melanoma.

Design: Images from a data set of 2430 lesions (382 were melanomas; median Breslow thickness, 0.36 mm) were divided into a training set and an independent test set at a ratio of approximately 2:1. A diagnostic algorithm (absolute diagnosis of melanoma vs benign lesion and estimated probability of melanoma) was developed and its performance described on the test set. High-quality clinical and dermoscopy images with a detailed patient history for 78 lesions (13 of which were melanomas) from the test set were given to various clinicians to compare their diagnostic accuracy with that of SolarScan.

Setting: Seven specialist referral centers and 2 general practice skin cancer clinics from 3 continents. Comparison between clinician diagnosis and SolarScan diagnosis was by 3 dermoscopy experts, 4 dermatologists, 3 trainee dermatologists, and 3 general practitioners.

Patients: Images of the melanocytic lesions were obtained from patients who required either excision or digital monitoring to exclude malignancy.

Main outcome measures: Sensitivity, specificity, the area under the receiver operator characteristic curve, median probability for the diagnosis of melanoma, a direct comparison of SolarScan with diagnoses performed by humans, and interinstrument and intrainstrument reproducibility.

Results: The melanocytic-only diagnostic model was highly reproducible in the test set and gave a sensitivity of 91% (95% confidence interval [CI], 86%-96%) and specificity of 68% (95% CI, 64%-72%) for melanoma. SolarScan had comparable or superior sensitivity and specificity (85% vs 65%) compared with those of experts (90% vs 59%), dermatologists (81% vs 60%), trainees (85% vs 36%; P =.06), and general practitioners (62% vs 63%). The intraclass correlation coefficient of intrainstrument repeatability was 0.86 (95% CI, 0.83-0.88), indicating an excellent repeatability. There was no significant interinstrument variation (P = .80).

Conclusions: SolarScan is a robust diagnostic instrument for pigmented or partially pigmented melanocytic lesions of the skin. Preliminary data suggest that its performance is comparable or superior to that of a range of clinician groups. However, these findings should be confirmed in a formal clinical trial.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Australia
  • Dermoscopy / methods*
  • Florida
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Medical Records
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / diagnosis*
  • Nevus, Pigmented / pathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology