Melanoma is usually a readily accessible cancer, being on the skin and in full view, but it can be hard to differentiate from benign moles. Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed and tested a new device that uses a laser to spot the telltale signs of a melanoma tumor as its light passes through the cancer’s larger and irregularly shaped cells. Specifically, the system monitors the nuances of optical polarization of the illuminated target.
The device, in its prototype state, costs about $300 to produce and doesn’t require special lenses or camera equipment. It outputs a simple number that indicates how unusual and potentially dangerous a reading of a given lesion is. It’s not intended to be used on its own, of course, and verification will have to be done by dermatologists and pathologists, but it may one day turn into a screening tool.
So far the researchers conducted a limited study with 47 volunteers and a total of 47 lesions, and the results are very promising. The next steps will involve further optimizing the technology and performing further studies to clear the way for regulatory approvals.
Open access study in Journal of Biomedical Optics: Degree of optical polarization as a tool for detecting melanoma: proof of principle…