Physicians have long since used "smell" to make diagnoses - you can smell necrotic, dying tissue; you can smell an infectious, pus filled exudate; you can smell the by-products of certain drugs in your urine; you can smell someone who has been on the Atkin's diet long term (their breath has ketones in it because of the high protein intake). Well....you can also smell certain skin cancers!!
Basal cell carcinomas apparently give off volatile organic compounds that smell different than the smell of healthy, normal skin. Right now there are sophisticated machines that can detect and assess these smells. But the medical horizon seems to promise a hand-held device, down the road, that may be able to detect these odors. That opens the way for cancer diagnoses to be made non-invasively, at least as a first line of defense, from the profiling of odors.
So lactic acid, phenol, hexanoic acid and about 100 other volatile compounds might be catagorized by smell and made into a "cancer directory of diagnostic smells (that is my own title)." Researchers are working on the diagnostic odors of squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma as well. So the hope is that a device could be passed over the skin of your body and give warning beeps if certain "worrisome odors" signaling certain volatile compounds are detected.
That's exciting because we may now have another way to detect dangerous cancers without being invasive!!!!
Published On: September 04, 2008