Earlier Diagnosis of Melanoma May be Possible via T-rays

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t rays skin cancer

Reports on procedures that apply the use of terahertz radiation, "T-rays" in early diagnosis of skin cancer was part of the 246th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. Almost 7,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics were on the schedule for the conference.

The technology that has the ability to look under clothing in airport security screenings may be a viable option for looking under human skin to identify and detect skin cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.

“Malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, starts in pigment-producing cells located in the deepest part of the epidermis. That's the outer layer of the skin. Biochemical changes that are hallmarks of cancer occur in the melanocytes long before mole-like melanomas appear on the skin,” explained President and chief technology officer of Applied Research & Photonics in Harrisburg, Pa, Anis Rahman, Ph.D.

"Terahertz radiation is ideal for looking beneath the skin and detecting early signs of melanoma. T-rays are different from X-rays, which are 'ionizing' radiation that can cause damage. T-rays are a form of 'non-ionizing' radiation, like ordinary visible light, but they can be focused harmlessly below into the body and capture biochemical signatures of events like the start of cancer.”

T-rays take up a position in the range of electromagnetic radiation, which includes X-rays and visible light, between microwaves like those used in kitchen ovens and the infrared rays used in TV remote controls. One of the benefits of T-rays is that they pierce only a few millimeters (10 sheets of printer paper would be about 1 millimeter thick) through cloth, skin, and other non-metallic material.

This important trait has led to their application in quality control in the pharmaceutical industry to check the exterior reliability of pills and capsules, in homeland security to remotely search underneath clothes, and as a non-destructive way of probing beneath the top layers of famous paintings and other culturally significant artworks.

Medical imaging is one of the newest and most promising potential uses,” noted Rahman. He recommended using T-rays on donated samples of human skin, before applying the technology on real skin, and using it as a valuable tool when diagnosing melanoma.

Additionally, in accordance to developing and applying T-rays to cancer diagnostics, Rahman and his team have successfully managed to harness them to calculate the real-time absorption rates and penetration in the outer layer of skin of topically applied drugs and shampoo, calculation that until now have never been able to have been attained.

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