A Device That Scans for Skin Cancer in Seconds

skin inspection

Scanning the body for cancerous moles is a laborious process; once the doctor has found a mark that looks suspicious, it has to be removed and sent to the lab for testing. But what if there was a simpler way to detect melanoma? A British Columbia-based startup called Verisante Technology thinks it has a solution with the Verisante Aura, a device that can detect melanoma in seconds when held above a suspicious mole.

The device, developed by the British Columbia Cancer Agency, compares a mole’s spectral signature to others in a database to determine whether or not it warrants attention. It’s a process that happens in under a second–the Aura uses Raman spectroscopy, a method that identifies molecules by their vibrational states, to scan for 21 cancer biomarkers.

The Aura isn’t a replacement for biopsy. Instead, if the Aura detects a suspicious mole, doctors are expected to biopsy it for further testing.

The Aura has already spent six years in clinical testing, with great success, according to MIT Technology Review. Next up for the product: getting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Canada Health. And Verisante had better hope that the Aura is 100% effective; otherwise, doctors may ignore cancerous moles just because the device gives it the all-clear.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.