The Meaning and Use of the Area Under a Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) Curve

Radiology. 1982 Apr;143(1):29-36. doi: 10.1148/radiology.143.1.7063747.

Abstract

A representation and interpretation of the area under a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve obtained by the "rating" method, or by mathematical predictions based on patient characteristics, is presented. It is shown that in such a setting the area represents the probability that a randomly chosen diseased subject is (correctly) rated or ranked with greater suspicion than a randomly chosen non-diseased subject. Moreover, this probability of a correct ranking is the same quantity that is estimated by the already well-studied nonparametric Wilcoxon statistic. These two relationships are exploited to (a) provide rapid closed-form expressions for the approximate magnitude of the sampling variability, i.e., standard error that one uses to accompany the area under a smoothed ROC curve, (b) guide in determining the size of the sample required to provide a sufficiently reliable estimate of this area, and (c) determine how large sample sizes should be to ensure that one can statistically detect differences in the accuracy of diagnostic techniques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Technology, Radiologic*