Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Genetic Programming based Feature Manipulation for Skin Cancer Image Classification

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posted on 2023-09-27, 00:00 authored by ~ Qurrat Ul Ain~ Qurrat Ul Ain

Skin image classification involves the development of computational methods for solving problems such as cancer detection in lesion images, and their use for biomedical research and clinical care. Such methods aim at extracting relevant information or knowledge from skin images that can significantly assist in the early detection of disease. Skin images are enormous, and come with various artifacts that hinder effective feature extraction leading to inaccurate classification. Feature selection and feature construction can significantly reduce the amount of data while improving classification performance by selecting prominent features and constructing high-level features. Existing approaches mostly rely on expert intervention and follow multiple stages for pre-processing, feature extraction, and classification, which decreases the reliability, and increases the computational complexity. Since good generalization accuracy is not always the primary objective, clinicians are also interested in analyzing specific features such as pigment network, streaks, and blobs responsible for developing the disease; interpretable methods are favored. In Evolutionary Computation, Genetic Programming (GP) can automatically evolve an interpretable model and address the curse of dimensionality (through feature selection and construction). GP has been successfully applied to many areas, but its potential for feature selection, feature construction, and classification in skin images has not been thoroughly investigated. The overall goal of this thesis is to develop a new GP approach to skin image classification by utilizing GP to evolve programs that are capable of automatically selecting prominent image features, constructing new high level features, interpreting useful image features which can help dermatologist to diagnose a type of cancer, and are robust to processing skin images captured from specialized instruments and standard cameras. This thesis focuses on utilizing a wide range of texture, color, frequency-based, local, and global image properties at the terminal nodes of GP to classify skin cancer images from multiple modalities effectively. This thesis develops new two-stage GP methods using embedded and wrapper feature selection and construction approaches to automatically generating a feature vector of selected and constructed features for classification. The results show that wrapper approach outperforms the embedded approach, the existing baseline GP and other machine learning methods, but the embedded approach is faster than the wrapper approach. This thesis develops a multi-tree GP based embedded feature selection approach for melanoma detection using domain specific and domain independent features. It explores suitable crossover and mutation operators to evolve GP classifiers effectively and further extends this approach using a weighted fitness function. The results show that these multi-tree approaches outperformed single tree GP and other classification methods. They identify that a specific feature extraction method extracts most suitable features for particular images taken from a specific optical instrument. This thesis develops the first GP method utilizing frequency-based wavelet features, where the wrapper based feature selection and construction methods automatically evolve useful constructed features to improve the classification performance. The results show the evidence of successful feature construction by significantly outperforming existing GP approaches, state-of-the-art CNN, and other classification methods. This thesis develops a GP approach to multiple feature construction for ensemble learning in classification. The results show that the ensemble method outperformed existing GP approaches, state-of-the-art skin image classification, and commonly used ensemble methods. Further analysis of the evolved constructed features identified important image features that can potentially help the dermatologist identify further medical procedures in real-world situations.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



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Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Engineering and Computer Science


Xue, Bing; Zhang, Mengjie; Al-Sahaf, Harith