A particular kind of eye cancer can be detected through baby pictures, according to a new study.
The study’s author, Bryan F. Shaw, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Baylor University. His son Noah was diagnosed with an eye cancer known as retinoblastoma before he was a year old.
Shaw’s wife noticed that photographs of Noah showed “red eye” in one eye and milky-white reflection in the other.
At the time, the father dismissed her concerns as first-time parent worries. After Noah was diagnosed with the rare disease, Shaw began researching with his son’s doctors. What they found is that the milky-eye was a sign of “leukocoria,” the syndrome that led to Noah’s retinoblastoma.
The found 7,000 photographs of Noah, some taken when he was just 12 days old, all showed the same single milky eye, even when red-eye reduction was used on the camera.
According to Shaw, the milkiness is the result of light reflecting off tumors formed in the back of the eye.
Researchers are hopeful that the method could help screen for leukocoria and retinoblastoma in developing countries. They also found that the bigger the tumor, the milkier the eye. This could help doctors estimate how advanced the tumors are.
While 95 percent of retinoblastoma patients survive the illness in the US, less than 46 percent survive the illness in Namibia.
"People have a camera phone even if they don’t have a washer or a car," said Shaw. "In places like China or India, peoples’ access to digital photography increases at a faster rate than their access to doctors does."
Noah lost his left eye, but his right eye has perfect vision and his health is fine.