Science Questions

Wasnít there something about shining light on skin that was a method of detecting cancers?

Sun, 5th Oct 2008

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Question

Rolly Mandlebrot asked:

Wasnít there something about shining light on skin that was a method of detecting cancers?

Answer

Chris - Yes, thatís absolutely true. People have found that thereís a technique thatís called Raman spectroscopy. When you shine light at something the light gets bombarded or ricocheted about like bullets bouncing around a room when it passes through different substances. Depending upon the structures itís passing through you get a different fingerprint scatter pattern. We know what normal skin does. If you shine light into skin which has got a malignant melanoma on it you get a different scatter pattern entirely. Scientists are investigating this as a very sensitive diagnostic technique. You may be able to use it to pinpoint a lesion which you might think Iím not suspicious enough to want to biopsy it but I might be suspicious enough to wave one of these wands at it and it would say, yes thatís got a scatter pattern that says itís got a lot of cells which are in an abnormal configuration under the skin. It could be cancer, itís worth doing a biopsy.

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