Smartphone selfie system seeks cancer signs

Smartphone selfie system
A 3-D-printed viewing box holds a smartphone in place to take a picture of the user’s eyes. The BiliScreen app analyzes the eye image to look for signs of jaundice, which could point to pancreatic cancer. (University of Washington Photo / Dennis Wise)

University of Washington researchers have created a smartphone app that can let users screen themselves for pancreatic cancer and other diseases by taking a selfie.

But not just any selfie.

The BiliScreen app is designed to focus in on the whites of your eyes. If your whites have an overly yellowish tinge, that could suggest you have increased levels of a compound known as bilirubin. That’s a sign of jaundice, and also one of the earliest indicators of pancreatic cancer.

The first effects on the whites of a person’s eyes, also known as the sclera, are too subtle to be noticeable to the naked eye. Heightened levels typically show up in blood tests, but the UW team says BiliScreen can serve as an effective, low-cost, low-impact screening tool.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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