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Saturday, 27 February 2010 03:26

Infrared scanning system may detect skin cancer

Johns Hopkins University researchers have developed a new noninvasive scanning system for detecting melanoma. It may one day help to detect this sometimes deadly form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is defined as a malignant tumor of melanocytes that is usually found on the skin.

Learn more about melanoma at Medicinenet.com 'Melanoma (Skin Cancer).'

The EurekAlert article 'Scanning for skin cancer: Infrared system looks for deadly melanoma' states that the new prototype detection system is able to sense very small changes in temperature, just below the surface of the skin, between healthy skin tissue and unhealthy tissue that contains a tumor.

Look inside the article for images of the device and process used to detect skin cancer.

Cancerous tissues contain cells that divide more rapidly than noncancerous cells, so they produce more heat'”showing up with a higher temperature than normal tissues.

The infrared-radiation system works similar to night-vision goggles'”picking up images of heat from bodies and objects in its range of view.

Page two contains a video describing the new noninvasive infrared device that was developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

Watch the YouTube video, which describes the Johns Hopkins' noninvasive infrared device, on 'Scanning for Skin Cancer - John Hopkins Research.'

Currently, the John Hopkins researchers are conducting a preliminary study on fifty patients to find out the specifics on how the device is able to detect the shape, size, and coloring of moles, the portion of the surface skin that may contain cells called melanocyts.

The three primary researchers for the development and testing of this device are:

'¢    Rhoda Alani (an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University's Kimmel Cancer Center),
'¢    Cila Herman (a professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering), and
'¢    Muge Pirtini (a mechanical engineering doctoral student at Johns Hopkins).

They want to find out just how accurate the device is in diagnosing melanoma, which (according to the National Cancer Institute) occurred 68,720 times in new patients, in 2009, and caused 8,650 deaths, in that year.

Dr. Rhoda Alani, one of the researchers involved in the development of this new device, states, "The problem with diagnosing melanoma in the year 2010 is that we don't have any objective way to diagnose this disease.' [EurekAlert]

Page three continues with comments from Dr. Alani about the promise of the medical instrument for detecting skin cancer, along with a description on how the infrared device works.

Dr. Alani, who is also a professor and chair of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine, added, "Our goal is to give an objective measurement as to whether a lesion may be malignant. It could take much of the guesswork out of screening patients for skin cancer." [EurekAlert]

The device works this way: 'First, they [the researchers] cool a patient's skin with a harmless one-minute burst of compressed air. When the cooling is halted, they immediately record infrared images of the target skin area for two to three minutes.'

Further: 'Cancer cells typically reheat more quickly than the surrounding healthy tissue, and this difference can be captured by the infrared camera and viewed through sophisticated image processing.' [EurekAlert]

Alani comments on its future application: "We, at this point, are not able to say that this instrument is able to replace the clinical judgment of a dermatologist, but we envision that this will be useful as a tool in helping to diagnose early-stage melanoma.'

And, 'We're very encouraged about the promise of this technology for improving our ability to prevent people from actually dying of melanoma." [EurekAlert]
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