Cancerous cells have a high metabolic rate - or release energy more quickly - than normal cells, so will regain heat more quickly than non-cancerous tissue after the ice pack is taken off. 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.
In Canada, more than 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. A medical professional can use the quantitative findings produced by the sKan to indicate whether the patient needs to be referred for further investigation or not.
Fortunately, in 2017, new, potentially life-saving technology is being developed to streamline and simplify the early-detection process. If there's a melanoma present, it will warm up faster than the surrounding skin, revealing itself on a heat map and temperature difference time plot created through a connected computer program. The sKan device makes use of this temperature differential, and harnesses accurate sensors to detect heat variations.
This is considerably cheaper than existing melanoma detection methods that use high resolution thermal imaging cameras that can cost a five-figure sum, whereas this treatment could cost less than $1,000.
As the victor of this prestigious award, sKan, which was created by a group of four inspiring engineering undergrads at Ontario's McMaster University, will receive $40,000 to further develop their tool, seek FDA approval, and ultimately bring the tool into the world for use.
Speaking of why he made a decision to award the sKan team the grand prize, worth $40,000 and $6,000 for McMaster University in Canada, James Dyson said: "By using widely available and low-priced components, the sKan allows for melanoma skin cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many". "It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world".
"Winning the James Dyson Award means the world to us", the team says in a statement.
The team plans to use the funds to build a new prototype that can be used in pre-clinical testing. "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", says the sKan team. Product design student, Tina Zimmer, has also been awarded £5,000 for designing a LED light-based device that makes it easier to carry out vein punctures on patients.