One of the critical challenges in machine learning applications is to have fair predictions. There are numerous recent examples in various domains that convincingly show that algorithms trained with biased datasets can easily lead to erroneous or discriminatory conclusions. This is even more crucial in clinical applications where the predictive algorithms are designed mainly based on a limited or given set of medical images and demographic variables such as age, sex and race are not taken into account. In this work, we conduct a survey of the MICCAI 2018 proceedings to investigate the common practice in medical image analysis applications. Surprisingly, we found that papers focusing on diagnosis rarely describe the demographics of the datasets used, and the diagnosis is purely based on images. In order to highlight the importance of considering the demographics in diagnosis tasks, we used a publicly available dataset of skin lesions. We then demonstrate that a classifier with an overall area under the curve (AUC) of 0.83 has variable performance between 0.76 and 0.91 on subgroups based on age and sex, even though the training set was relatively balanced. Moreover, we show that it is possible to learn unbiased features by explicitly using demographic variables in an adversarial training setup, which leads to balanced scores per subgroups. Finally, we discuss the implications of these results and provide recommendations for further research.
|Publication status||Published - 20 May 2020|