Now wearable technology has entered the realm of disease diagnosis. A group of scientists from Colombia's largest public university, for instance, is developing a bra that can detect breast cancer using infrared technology.
The high-tech bra, outfitted with tiny infrared sensors, can record breast temperature and warn against any irregularities present. The technology is based on how abnormal cells generate more blood supply, resulting in changes in the breasts' thermodynamics.
"When there is presence of foreign cells in mammary glands, the body requires more circulation and blood flow in the specific part where the invasive cells are found, so the temperature of this body increases," explains Maria Camila Cortes Arcila, a Colombia National University student working on the cancer-detecting bra.
Specialized software monitors and using two infrared sensors, records each breast's temperature. The data is stored for future processing and analysis.
The team is said to have been working on the project since June last year to let the field of engineering help women affected by the disease.
The researchers, however, said that the bra is not meant to replace a visit to the doctor - but instead supplement other means to detect breast cancer early on through a practical, affordable electronic brassiere for any woman.
In July, the first phase of the research monitored the breast temperature of healthy women at a hospital. In the second phase from October to November, the breast temperature of breast cancer patients was measured and then compared with those of healthy subjects. A total of 189 women participated in the study.
The prototype is still being tested and is yet to have an official name or date of release.
This bra, however, would not be Colombia's foray into lingerie export. The South American country has already established itself in the niche of lingerie and body-shaping corsets worldwide, exporting $17 million worth of undergarments in 2014 alone.
But the cancer-detecting bra would be the first to combine fashion and science. Only after minutes of use, its three small lights will deliver a diagnostic reading: a green light means no problem; a yellow light means there is a need to perform another test, while a red light cautions the wearer that a doctor's exam is needed.
Breast cancer remains the leading cancer among women worldwide, with 14.1 million new cases diagnosed in 2012. 8 million or more than half of the new cases are in developing nations. By 2030, 21.7 million new cases are expected to be diagnosed and 13 million deaths are predicted to occur.