Indo-US researchers developing solar-powered oral cancer detector for remote areas

A handy solar-powered device is being tested in India and US for early detection of oral cancer. The device could be integrated with mobile technology, enabling faster and accurate diagnostics in rural areas, IANS reported.

The device has been designed by the Beckman Laser Institute (BLI), University of California-Irvine (UCI) and the Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre (MSCC) in Bengaluru and is slightly larger than a shoe box. It has been specially adapted for India, which accounted for one of the highest rates of head and neck cancers in the world and the highest rate among women.

Its light-weight and user-friendly features meant even health care workers with minimal education could use it in the field. The solar energy-driven device would capture images of the patient's oral cavity and transmit them via a mobile phone to experts at the centre.

"India is the first country in which we are using the device - it was specifically designed to meet conditions and needs there. The final device will have a solar option," Petra Wilder-Smith of BLI told IANS in an email interaction.

According to Wilder-Smith, which is recognised as a pioneer in the application of optics and lasers in oral diagnosis, the device was based on optical coherence tomography (OCT) - an imaging technology similar to ultrasound, except that it used light (a laser).

Oral cancer was the most common cancer in India, accounting for 40 per cent of all cancers overall and for over 50 per cent of all cancers in certain areas in the country.
According to experts, it was also disturbing to note the spike in oral cancer in young adults.

"In the US, the oral cancer rate is also high, especially in African-Americans, older persons, and tobacco and alcohol users. It is particularly troubling that recently a trend has been observed worldwide towards an increased incidence of oral cancer among young adults," informed Wilder-Smith, stressing on early detection.