Smartphone Microscopes can detect Skin Cancer, claims UTHealth scientists

As per a new study, smartphone based microscopes can be utilized to diagnose skin cancer where a conventional microscope is not accessible. Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston (UTHealth) opined that smartphone microscopes could enhance the detection of skin cancer in developing nations.

Assistant professor of dermatology at UTHealth, Richard Jahan-Tigh, said that doctors in certain remote areas don’t have the high-powered microscopes used to examine skin samples.

Doctors there could utilize their smartphones to take pictures of the growths and forward them for evaluation.

A head-to-head comparison of the smartphone microscope with a conventional light microscope was done. While the smartphone microscope lacked the same accuracy, it detected 90% of the non-melanoma cancers according to Jahan-Tigh. The latter did the study with peers at Harvard Medical School and McGovern Medical School. Using the smartphone microscope, 60% of the melanomas were detected. The study pointed that 132,000 melanoma skin cancers and 2 to 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year.

A smartphone microscope can be created with a 3mm ball lens, a small plastic piece to hold the ball lens over the smartphone lens and tape to keep everything in place. The price for a lens is around $14 at electronic stores and is usually utilized for laser optics.

A doctor position a Smartphone microscope over a skin sample put on a slide. The doctor then examines the sample if he/she is a pathologist. Otherwise, he/she takes a picture and emails it to a pathologist for examination.

Researchers looked at 1,021 slides of specimens. The smartphone microscope detected 95.6% of the basal cell carcinomas as well as 89% of squamous cell carcinomas.

As per researchers mobile phone based microscopes have impressive performance parameters for the economical diagnosis of non-melanoma skin cancers in places where a conventional microscope is not accessible. According to Jahan-Tigh, smartphone microscopy has a good future in dermatology as well as pathology. The findings were published in the journal Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.

With the proliferation of smartphones and the fact they are cheaper than high powered microscopes, skin cancer can be detected in remote areas or locations in developing countries.