A new selfie app has been developed to help detect signs of pancreatic cancer.
The name of the app is BiliScreen, and experts are hoping it will dramatically decrease the rate of pancreatic cancer deaths, the Daily Mail reported. It will be debuted at a conference in Hawaii on Sept. 13.
According to researchers at the University of Washington, the app uses a smartphone camera to detect increased levels of bilirubin, which causes yellowing of the eyes -- a common concrete sign of pancreatic cancer.
The app is said to have the ability to detect bilirubin in the white part of the user's eye even if they can not see it in the mirror. Blood tests are usually carried out to measure bilirubin levels, but they are not routinely offered and can be expensive.
"The problem with pancreatic cancer is that by the time you're symptomatic, it's frequently too late," author Alex Mariakakis, a doctoral student at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, told the Daily Mail.
The research team examined if computer vision and machine learning tools could help detect color changes in the eyes before humans even notice them.
"The hope is that if people can do this simple test once a month -- in the privacy of their own homes -- some might catch the disease early enough to undergo treatment that could save their lives," Mariakakis continued.
Researchers also hope the app could potentially help pancreatic cancer patients to better monitor their bilirubin levels.
A clinical study of 70 people showed that the BiliScreen app correctly identified cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time.
Now the team is looking to test the app on a wider range of people at risk for jaundice and other underlying conditions. They are also working to improve usability.
"This relatively small initial study shows the technology has promise," said co-author Dr. Jim Taylor, a professor in the University of Washington Medicine Department of Pediatrics. Taylor's father died of pancreatic cancer at age 70.
"Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease with no effective screening right now," Taylor added. "Our goal is to have more people who are unfortunate enough to get pancreatic cancer to be fortunate enough to catch it in time to have surgery that gives them a better chance of survival."
According to the American Cancer Society, about 53,670 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States in 2017. About 43,090 are expected to die from the illness.