T-Rays Offer Potential for Earlier Diagnosis of Melanoma
Harrisburg, PA - The technology that peeks underneath clothing at airport security screening check points has great potential for looking underneath human skin to diagnose cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages, a scientist said here today.
The report on efforts to use terahertz radiation — “T-rays” — in early diagnosis of skin cancer was part of the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.
Anis Rahman, Ph.D., who spoke on the topic, explained that 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.
“Terahertz radiation is ideal for looking beneath the skin and detecting early signs of melanoma,” Rahman said. T-rays, a form of non-ionizing radiation like ordinary visible light, are less likely to cause damage than X-rays, which are ionizing radiation. They can be focused harmlessly into the body and capture biochemical signatures of events like the start of cancer, according to Rahman.
T-rays occupy a niche in the spectrum 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 advantages of T-rays is that they penetrate only a few millimeters through cloth, skin and other non-metallic material. Ten sheets of printer paper would be about 1 millimeter thick. This key characteristic has led to their use in quality control in the pharmaceutical industry to check the surface integrity of pills and capsules, in homeland security to remotely frisk underneath clothes, and as a non-destructive way of probing beneath the top layers of famous paintings and other culturally significant artwork. Continue>
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