Innovation That Matters

Health app

New app could spot pancreatic cancer


Smartphone camera can be used with a new app to detect abnormal levels of bilirubin in the body.

BiliScreen is a new app developed by researchers at the University of Washington, that the creators claim can screen for pancreatic cancer and other diseases simply by taking a selfie on a smartphone.

Pancreatic cancer has a very poor long-term survival rate of just 9 percent, which is caused in part because the symptoms don’t usually become apparent until the cancer has spread. One of the earliest visible symptoms of pancreatic cancer though, is jaundice – which gives a yellow discoloration of the whites of the eyes and skin. Using the BiliScreen app, the camera on a smartphone can detect minute levels of the chemical bilirubin in the whites of a person’s eye. Pancreatic cancer causes bilirubin levels to increase until discoloration occurs, but BiliScreen is able to spot an abnormality with someone’s bilirubin levels long before they are visible to the naked eye. Researchers say that BiliScreen had around 90 percent of the accuracy of a blood test when it came to identifying abnormal bilirubin levels in a 70-person clinical study. They’re now working on making the app ready for the general public.

As work continues on cures for the various forms of cancer, the world of technology is continuing to inspire and invent. In Mexico a student developed a bra that can help to detect breast cancer, while a UK-based retailer has teamed up with a charity to develop a suncream for those working in the construction industry. Could smartphone technology lead the way to a new culture of self-diagnostics as well as provide healthcare facilities to the under-served?



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