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Can Odour Help Detect Skin Cancer?

Early diagnosis might be possible for melanoma

Skin produces a variety of airborne molecules, knows as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Dogs can sniff out the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, which suggests that melanoma gives off different VOCs than normal skin.

In a study conducted in Philadelphia, US, researchers grew normal cells and melanoma cells. They then put the cells in closed containers and used a device to collect the VOCs, which were then analysed in a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer.

Levels of several compounds differed between the normal and melanoma cells, and the melanoma cells produced some VOCs that normal cells did not.

The next step was to test if a portable sensor could also detect differences between melanoma and normal skin cells. Researchers used a nano-sensor that they used before and found that it too could distinguish between normal and melanoma cells. This suggests that a portable sensor could make noninvasive odour analysis possible, which could lead to early detection of melanoma.

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