We are a society absolutely obsessed with taking photos. From sharing our travels with the world to Instagramming our dinners, to posting a selfie or two (or twenty) here and there, we love snapping pictures whenever and wherever we can. For the first time, our attachment to taking pictures might actually have the potential to save our lives thanks to the most recent application of photography to medicine.


Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, but spotted and treated early, the disease is almost always curable. Now, the latest technological advancement in cancer research in the form of a camera may actually make early diagnosis of melanoma simpler and more effective than ever.


Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina have developed the world’s first gigapixel camera, which is essentially made up of 34 microcameras and has the ability to take whole-body pictures with a higher resolution than any camera of its kind to precede it. This higher resolution makes it possible to zoom into even the smallest freckle on the body and perform a successful and detailed screening using the image produced by the camera.


This gigapixel camera may change how we diagnose skin cancer (techtimes.com)

This gigapixel camera may change how we diagnose skin cancer (techtimes.com)

While the gigapixel camera must pass a series of clinical trials and undergo further research before it becomes a routine method for patients, the camera may completely alter the reality of cancer screening in several ways. For starters, this new technology offers a more detailed and useful image than commercial cameras which may have previously been used with the aim of achieving what this gigapixel camera can accomplish. On the other hand, it offers up a cheaper and quicker alternative to skin cancer screening than the advanced process of digital dermatoscopy.


This gigapixel camera also has the ability to make routine screenings available on a broader scale for people in various locations by facilitating the practice of telemedicine.


Moving past the medical context of this development, which is first and foremost the primary benefit of an invention like this, there is another cultural context in which to consider the gigapixel camera, that being the photo-obsessed culture in which we live. This camera is by no means the first time we are seeing photography and medicine intersect, but as the most advanced whole-body camera to come into the medical field thus far, the gigapixel camera continues to build on the complexity of our relationship with photography as a culture, allowing it to be inserted not only into our social or artistic lives, but into our health and our well-being as well.


We are consumed by taking photographs and keeping up to date with friends and strangers alike through images shared on social media, but photography can go so far beyond the social purposes that which we have come to value. As research continues to demonstrate new ways to incorporate the importance of taking photos into fields like medicine and science as it has done here, it serves as a constant reminder in the midst of major photo overloads that there is a much bigger picture here. In a sense, this latest innovation may give you the technology to take photographs that could be life changing and may actually have the potential to save you, turning the selfie into the new way to stay healthy.


Do you think this gigapixel camera will prove beneficial in changing how we diagnose cancer? Do you think it is a positive reflection on the overall versatility of photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @tamarahoumi