According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Skin cancer generally falls into two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma often leads to some sort of disfigurement, while melanoma often leads to death. According to the American Cancer Society, rates of melanoma have been steadily climbing for 30 years. There are many possible explanations for this phenomenon: including the destruction of the ozone layer, more people spending time in the sun, and people exposing more of their skin to the sun.
Recently, Daniel Louie, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in Canada, designed a laser that can quickly and accurately detect cancerous skin cells. Louie realized that as light waves pass through objects they scatter in very specific ways. With this idea in mind, he designed a laser probe that could interpret these patterns in a matter of seconds.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute tested and analyzed the results of this new device on a number of patients at Canada’s Vancouver General Hospital Skin Care Center. The results of their research were published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics. The scientists reported that the new laser probe is both extremely accurate and easy to use for detecting the presence of skin cancer.
One of the main obstacles to preventing thousands of deaths each year from melanoma is the fact that it’s often not noticed until it’s too late. There are not enough physicians available with the knowledge to accurately check patients for possible melanoma. Further, the existing mechanism for determining whether or not a lesion is cancerous is expensive and difficult to use.
The new laser probe designed by Daniel Louie uses inexpensive materials, is easy to manufacture, and easy to use. This would allow the device to be utilized much more widely. And with this new machine and minimal training, a patient could be checked for skin cancer in a matter of seconds.
It is expected that Health Canada will soon certify the new laser probe.
For elderly people in particular, who have been exposed to the sun for many years, the risk of developing melanoma is relatively high. Hopefully this new laser probe will be available in the US in the near future, allowing physicians to diagnose skin cancer earlier, and ensure the best possible outcome.
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