A low cost and non-invasive device that can detect skin cancer has won this year’s international James Dyson Award.
The sKan was invented by four Canadian engineering graduates from Ontario’s McMaster University.
The handheld device is made from widely available and inexpensive components and could make detection of the disease more accessible.
The World Health Organisation says one in every three cancer cases diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer.
Dyson company founder James Dyson said the sKan received the award because it is “a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world”.
The James Dyson Award has been open to university or recent design graduates across the world since 2002 and celebrates significant, practical and commercially viable designs.
The sKan began as final year engineering class project for four medical and bioengineering undergraduates: Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur and Shivad Bhavsar.
They were awarded C$50,000 ($40,000; £30,000) to develop the device, which uses temperature sensors to help in the early detection of melanoma, the mostly deadly form of skin cancer.
Because cancerous cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal tissue cells, cancerous tissue warms at a faster rate than non-cancerous tissue when the tissue – in this case skin – is cooled.
The goal is to select patients who should be sent for a biopsy as early detection is key for the treatment of melanoma.
The team plans to use the funds to build a new prototype that can be used in pre-clinical testing.
In Canada, more than 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those, more than 5,000 are melanoma.
In the US, there are over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer treated each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Around 87,000 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed this year, the organisation says.