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Brief Published: 27 Nov 2017

Skan: Cancer-Detecting Scanner


Engineering students from Ontario's McMaster University in Canada have developed a low-cost, non-invasive handheld device for diagnosing melanoma.

Called Skan, the scanner simplifies the early-detection process by using temperature sensors to identify cancerous cells, which are warmer than normal cells. These thermistors monitor the heat emission of cells in real time to create a heat map showing which ones recover quicker from thermal shock – indicating the presence of melanoma.

The creators won the International James Dyson Award in November 2017, receiving $40,000 for their invention. "By using widely available and inexpensive components, the Skan allows for melanoma skin-cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many," judge James Dyson told The Guardian. "It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world. This is why I have selected it as this year's international winner."

The students intend to use the prize money to develop the tool further and gain regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Once this has been achieved, it could lead to its adoption by medical practices worldwide.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, with more than 3.3 million people treated each year in the US (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2017). If detected early, the disease is easily curable.

For more on the innovative healthcare products equipping consumers with at-home tools for diagnosis and care, see CES 2017: DIY Doctor and Wellbeing Warriors.