Researchers from Microsoft used cancer search queries to obtain an algorithm that permits search engines to detect the early signs of pancreatic cancer. The purpose of the study was to find a way to warn people on the gravity of their symptoms and to advise them to seek professional medical attention.
Up until now, search engine data was used only for marketing purposes and online activity optimization. Various companies have tried to use the users’ inputs to develop better software programs and to create a superior online experience.
The classic approach is focused on the company, on its products, and client satisfaction. But Microsoft wants to add a new dimension to this anonymized scrutiny of search queries. In fact, Microsoft would want to use a person’s online activity as an indicator of its health.
Bing Cancer Search
Thus, scientists analyzed data coming from cancer search queries made by individuals who were already affected by the disease. All information was anonymous.
After that, researchers wanted to know if the prior search queries, which occurred before the diagnosis, may lead to any indication of the disease.
Cancer search queries coming from millions of people were analyzed in search of clues. Based on the acquired data, the scientists created statistical classifiers that could predict the diagnosis using patterns found in the history of individual search logs.
The results showed that experts could identify from 5 to 15% of the pancreatic cancer cases. The percentage of false positives, which indicate the persons that were incorrectly considered to have the disease, was very low.
The team of researchers said that they hope the study will help the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
The Scientific Debate
The research makes way to the old paradigm of internet – the internet remembers everything, knows who you are, what you are doing, how you are feeling, and even when you are sick.
However, the study is not conclusive. The percentage of correctly determined cancer cases is very low, and experts say the further research will be needed in order to complete the algorithm.
The early detection of pancreatic cancer can increase the survival rate up to 7 percent. The noble intentions of the researchers are entirely explainable when it comes to how important the early detection of serious health problems had proved to be.
Critics of the study say that the information on how the research was conducted is very sketchy, which may hint for a mishandling of data and a flawed scientific methodology.
Image Source: Wikipedia