A Fine-tuned Microscopy Technique Offers Breakthrough Imaging of Melanoma

Source: The Optical Society, March 2017

Researchers have recently refined a classic Raman-based technique and succeeded in imaging the two dominant melanin molecules — a breakthrough that could lead to new understandings and, critically, early detection of melanoma

SAN DIEGO — Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with over 232,000 new cases and 55,000 deaths per year worldwide. Those with light-skin or red hair are often prone to hard-to-detect melanomas, often caused by properties of pigments within skin called melanins. People with fair skin have a higher concentration of the melanin known as pheomelanin in their skin, and a corresponding higher probability of developing melanoma — in particular, a difficult-to-detect subtype known as amelanotic melanoma. In high concentrations, pheomelanin is responsible for the orange-reddishness in hair, but is essentially invisible in skin.

While eumelanin, the brown-black pigment found in most melanomas, can be easily seen, the light colored pheomelanin is difficult to detect; even with advances in modern microscopy, understanding the pheomelanin molecule and its role in melanoma has eluded scientists.

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