Smartphone Microscopes May Aid Skin Cancer Detection in Developing World


Smartphone microscopes may improve the detection of skin cancer in developing countries, according to a studyin theArchives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.

Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Harvard Medical School in Boston compared findings fom traditional light microscope with those of smartphone microspcopes. They examined 1,021 slides of specimens, which had a total of 136 basal cell carcinomas, 94 squamous cell carcinomas and 15 melanomas. The smartphone microscope was used to pick up 95.6 percent of the basal cell carcinomas and 89 percent of squamous cell carcinomas.

Additional studies are needed to enhance the detection rate, but the authors call this “a good first step to show that smartphone microscopy has a future in dermatology and pathology.”

A smartphone microscope can be made with a 3 mm ball lens, a tiny piece of plastic to hold the ball lens over the smartphone lens and tape to grip everything in place. A ball lens costs about $14 at an electronics store and is typically used for laser optics.

Here is how a smartphone microscope works:

A doctor or technician holds a smartphone microscope over a skin sample that has been placed on a slide and waits for the sample to come into focus. The doctor then either reads the sample if he or she is a pathologist, or takes a photo and emails it to a pathologist for interpretation.


PHOTO CAPTION: With the help of a smartphone microscope, UTHealth's Richard Jahan-Tigh, M.D., was able to detect non-melanoma skin cancer about 90 percent of the time.

Credit: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)


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