Microsoft researchers detect lung-cancer risks in web search logs

Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer death in the world. But nearly 20 percent of lung-cancer diagnoses are made in people who are non-smokers. That means in addition to smoking, geographic, demographic and genetic factors play a role in the devastating disease.

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.