ACS: Skin Cancer May Have Distinct Odor Profile

Discovery paves way for non-invasive test that could detect and diagnose early skin cancers

THURSDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The discovery of a specific skin-cancer "odor profile" could lead to the development of an accurate, non-invasive diagnostic test that relies on a handheld scanner or sensor, according to research presented at the 236th national meeting of the American Chemical Society held Aug. 17 to 21 in Philadelphia.

Michelle Gallagher, Ph.D., of Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia, and colleagues used solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to sample and analyze air above tumor sites in 11 patients with basal cell carcinoma and above the skin of 11 cancer-free controls.

Compared to controls, the researchers found that the cancer patients had a different "odor profile" characterized by a quantitative alteration of the normal volatile organic compound profile. Since the researchers are applying for a patent on their technique, they declined to give specific details about which compounds had higher or lower levels.

"Currently, early detection of skin cancer is accomplished primarily through a visual exam, followed by imaging and/or biopsy of any suspected areas," the authors write. "This research opens doors to potential new approaches to skin cancer diagnosis based on the profile of skin odors, hopefully leading to more rapid and non-invasive detection and diagnosis of this prevalent disease."

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