Microsoft researchers use web search logs to detect potential lung-cancer risks

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Eric Horvitz (L), technical fellow and managing director of Microsoft’s research lab in Redmond, Washington, says search queries may be an early warning of lung cancer. Ryen White (R), chief technology officer for Microsoft Health and an information retrieval expert. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

A project from Microsoft’s research labs is exploring the feasibility of using anonymized web search data to learn more about lung-cancer risk factors and provide early warning to people who are candidates for disease screening.

The findings, published Thursday in JAMA Oncology, extend research that team members published last June on the feasibility of using the text of questions people ask search engines to predict diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. The machine-learning method builds on patterns found in the search queries.

“Here, we are not just looking at the text of the queries; we also consider the locations that people are in when they issue these queries and we tie that back to contextual risk factors linked to those locations,” says study co-author Ryen White, chief technology officer for health intelligence at Microsoft Health in Redmond, Washington.

Head over to Next at Microsoft to find out more.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff