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Stanford bioengineers create an ultra-low-cost oral cancer screening tool

I call it the ultimate “blue light special:" an oral cancer screening tool that costs just a few dollars and can be used in rural regions of developing nations to help with early detection of a disease that kills more than 270,000 people a year.

Developed by a Manu Prakash, PhD, and his Stanford bioengineering team, this elegantly simple device, called OScan, attaches to any smartphone’s built-in camera, allowing anyone to take a high-resolution, panoramic image of a person’s complete mouth cavity. Illuminated by the device’s blue fluorescent light, malignant cancer lesions in the oral cavity can be easily detected as dark spots, by dentists or oral surgeons receiving these images wirelessly.

As I wrote in this Inside Stanford Medicine article, one thing I found shocking was how serious the epidemic of oral cancer is in India, due to the widespread use of chewing tobacco and the scarcity of dentists:

Although oral cancer stands as the sixth-most frequent type of in United States, it accounts for more than 40 percent of cancer-related deaths in India, not surprising considering that nearly 57 percent of males and 11 percent of women consume tobacco in that country.

OScan, which leverages the camera technology in ubiquitous smartphones, is a clever solution to the growing global problem of oral cancer. Today the device won first and second place, respectively, for the mHealth Alliance Award and the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project.

Photo by Steve Fisch

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