A new screening device being developed in Vancouver could one day help diagnose a deadly form of skin cancer more quickly.

The small optical probe is designed to detect skin cancer known as melanoma. A laser light shot into the skin produces a pattern on a computer screen which could signify the presence of the disease.

The device was built by University of British Columbia PhD candidate Daniel Louie, who said he wanted to make something low cost and compact that could be used in doctors' offices and clinics.

“Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer,” Louie said. “It is very important that we catch melanoma early and so a device like this could help.”

The probe is still in the experimental stage. About 7,200 new cases of melanoma are reported in Canada each year.