Low Cost Hand-Held Skin Cancer Detection Device

By: | March 21st, 2019

Skin cancer is the most common cancer that is prevalent in the United States. According to current estimates, it is believed that at least one American in five will likely suffer from some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. It is estimated that this year, at least 7,320 Americans are expected to die of this disease.

Melanoma can easily be regarded as one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer that appears in the form of cancerous growths and malignant tumors. They often look like moles on the skin and are generally brown or black in color. Melanoma is mainly caused by occasional and intense UV exposure more commonly known as sunburn.

A team of researchers at McMaster University in Canada have developed the prototype of a portable probe which is an extremely low-cost handheld device which got them rewarded with the prestigious Dyson Award.

Thanks to this device, also known as the sKan probe, doctors can detect the presence of skin cancer in an individual without doing a biopsy (non-invasive surgery). This probe, similar to a mammogram in its purpose can assist healthcare professionals in making a call on whether or not they need to biopsy a suspicious lump in a patient.

Prateek Mathur, one of the co-creators, discusses the research approach the four took in creating a cancer detection device that was innovative, yet cost-effective: “We came across the issue of skin cancer and how technology hasn’t had the same impact on its diagnosis as it has on other fields in medicine,” he said, adding, “We found research that used the thermal properties of cancerous skin tissue as a means of detecting melanoma. However, this was done using expensive lab equipment. We set out to apply the research and invent a way of performing the same assessment using a more cost-effective solution.” 

It works by using heat sensitive resistors known as thermistors to create a thermal map on the area of the skin a physician has chosen for examination. The digital reading that is generated then clearly indicates the presence – or absence – of melanoma. We live in an age where cancer is as widespread as the common flu, and there is no definitive cure to beat this fatal disease. That said, we can take the initiative and charge of our own health by being proactive and conscious of our overall well-being, through technology made available to us like the sKan probe.

Bianca Van der Watt

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