Skin cancer-detecting device wins 2017 James Dyson award

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A group of engineering students have been awarded prestigious James Dyson Award and a cash prize of $30,000, for their device that spots skin cancer early. The sKan makes heat maps of the skin to identify anomalies associated with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, to enable earlier detection. "That said, it is more important - now than ever before - to check for signs of skin cancer".

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When the cells experience thermal shock - such as when an icepack is placed on the skin - cancerous tissue will regain heat more quickly than the non-cancerous tissue, indicating a strong likelihood of melanoma. The results of the test are then shown as a heat map and a time plot of the temperature difference.

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The technique is non-invasive, fast and effective, and while it's not the first to use thermal imaging for melanoma detection, it should be far less expensive than other systems.

The device costs less than $1,000 (£760), compared with £20,000 for high-resolution thermal imaging cameras now available, and could save thousands of lives by confirming the presence of cancer before biopsy procedures, the team said. The Skan device - created by students from McMaster University in Canada - scans for melanomas using heat, and looks likely to slash the cost of the procedure.

"By using widely available and cheap components, the sKan could allow for melanoma skin cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many", says James Dyson. A low-priced hand-held device could potentially save millions of lives across the world by diagnosing melanoma without the need for a biopsy. "This is why I have selected it at this year's worldwide victor".

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The team plans to use the funds to build a new prototype that can be used in pre-clinical testing.

The benefactor of the award is James Dyson whose name you probably recognize because he's the infamous inventor who often graces the TV screen for commercials promoting his world-famous Dyson vacuums (and hairdryer). "The prize money will help us to continue developing a medical device that can saves people's lives".

"We are truly humbled and excited to be given this remarkable opportunity", they said.

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Two runners-up have also been awarded £5,000 to develop their products. Twistlight, designed by Tina Zimmer, uses LED lights to make veins appear highly contrasted within their surrounding dermal tissue.

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