A new study suggests baby photos could reveal a rare form of eye cancer.
Bryan Shaw, a chemistry professor whose son was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, noticed something strange when looking back on photographs of baby Noah, Popular Science reported.
In the photos, one of Shaw's son's eyes appeared milky white while the other had the "red eye" camera effect.
Shaw's wife Elizabeth was the first to point out the phenomenon.
"I told her it was nothing," Bryan Shaw said. "I took a bunch more pictures and the milkiness went away at some angles."
A few months later, the baby boy was diagnosed with eye condition. Retinoblastoma only affects children under five, whose eyes are still developing. About 8,000 children are diagnosed with the condition every year, and half of them die globally.
The white light is believed to reflect of tumors in the back of the eye.
Shaw and colleagues analyzed over 7,000 pictures of Noah, and determined the "white-eye-syndrome" (dubbed leukocoria) could help medical experts catch the cancer early-on and could even help determine the size of the tumors.
Shaw believes the new cancer-detection-method could do a great deal of good for children in developing countries.
"Cell phones are booming the third world," Shaw said. "People have a camera phone even if they don't have a washer or a car. In places like China or India, peoples' access to digital photography increases at a faster rate than their access to doctors does."
In the U.S. retinoblastoma has a survival rate of 95 percent, in countries like Namibia it is only 46 percent.
"White-eye is historically viewed as a symptom of advanced retinoblastoma, with a low chance that the eye can be saved. Our paper challenges this paradigm by showing that photography can detect tumors in their earliest stages; white eye can show up in early stage retinoblastoma, however, it shows up less frequently in the early stages because the picture has to be taken at a magic angle," Shaw said.
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.