Melanoma detected in skin odor
Does skin cancer have a smell? Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Monell Chemical Senses Center say they have been able to identify a specific chemical signature that is associated with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells of the body that give skin its color. The cancer emits a different chemical signature in its odor than non-cancerous cells and, by using the sophisticated sensory techniques, the researchers believe they’ve found a way to diagnose the disease without removing layers of skin for testing.
For this study, the research team picked out volatile organic compounds from melanoma cells at three different stages of the disease, and compared them to the same compounds from normal skin cells. They used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the samples, and found different mixtures of VOCs in the cancerous cells. The scientists were even able to distinguish different types of melanoma cells.
Early detection of melanoma is key, though current diagnostics rely on visual examination, which are subject to the skilled eye of the doctor. However, these findings could prove to be groundbreaking due to the greater precision in testing.