Early Detection of Skin Cancer Using Spectral Imaging: A Non-Invasive Approach to Better Health

Spectrophotometric technology has been used for decades to analyze and differentiate colors, chemical compounds, and to detect impurities in various substances. As this technology continues to evolve, new methods of analysis are developing and finding multiple applications in the healthcare field. Spectral imaging has a variety of applications, which now includes using this technology for early detection in skin cancer patients.

skin cancer spectral imaging
Skin cancer is a dangerous and invasive disease that can cause serious complications and even death in patients. Early detection through spectral imaging provides the key to early diagnosis and treatment.
Image Source: Flickr user Traci Lawson

Determining cell and tissue changes with IR spectroscopy

Spectral imaging uses light to differentiate human tissues by type, using rapid and non-invasive analytical methods. Light in the IR (infrared) region responds to tissue by exhibiting variations in wavelength absorption rates. The resulting data allows specialists to determine changes in tissues and cell growth. Scientists are merely scratching the surface of this new technology, but these same principles have already been applied to many other areas of bioimaging and research.

A recent online article in BioPhotonics Magazine claims that “A new wave of data manipulation and interpretation in IR imaging will enable leaps in biomedical research and diagnosis, according to Rohit Bhargava, professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and winner of the 2013 Craver Award for pioneering IR spectroscopic imaging.” One of the positive results of this research is that new research methods have uncovered ways of using IR light measurement for early identification of cancer cells in patients. Spectral imaging is not only faster than other methods of detection; it is also a less invasive and a more affordable choice in healthcare for patients.

light spectrum spectral imaging
Infrared light can be used to detect variations in light absorption in human tissues. This data provides a rapid determination of abnormalities that may occur.
Image Source: Flickr’ user Johannes Ahlmann

Early detection leads to early treatment

Early detection is necessary for developing early treatment options and crucial for positive outcomes in cancer patients. This is especially true of skin cancer patients, for whom early detection can often be difficult to achieve. New methods of spectral imaging allow doctors to identify early-stage lesions in skin cancer patients that have been difficult to identify in the past using other methods of analysis. These new methods of spectral analysis have been tested on both pigmented and non-pigmented skin lesions with increasingly positive results. Using IR spectrophotometric measurement, abnormalities in cell tissues are quantifiable, and early detection can be achieved at an even higher rate of accuracy. This method is both rapid and non-invasive, making it superior to methods that require multiple biopsies that damage existing tissue and involve a longer laboratory testing period to produce results.

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Spectral data that aids in cancer research and diagnosis

Spectral imaging can deliver multiple forms of data, which provide a wealth of information about abnormalities in the human body systems. From measuring hemoglobin and oxygen levels that alert doctors to potential changes in human tissues to vascular imaging that shows higher levels of blood flood and vascular changes that indicate abnormal cell growth and functioning, spectral imaging is quickly becoming the future of healthcare and diagnostic treatments.

blood cells spectral imaging
Spectral analysis can be used to measure hemoglobin and blood oxygen levels. This information has now been adapted to help with the early detection of various forms of skin cancer.
Image Source: Flickr user dxiri

Spectrophotometric technology and instrumentation

From biomedical engineering to pharmaceutical research, spectral imaging has become the new choice in medical technology for modern medicine. As new discoveries are being made, more uses for this simple yet effective method of analysis are taking center stage. At HunterLab, we see the future of spectral analysis and color measurement in the medical industry. Our experience in the healthcare industry has opened up doors to new research and opportunities that better utilize spectrophotometric technology in the medical field. We develop instrumentation that is adaptable to an ever changing industry, and we work hard to meet our clients’ needs and challenges. Contact HunterLab today, and together we can discover the many uses of spectral imaging and work towards a better healthcare future for our nation.

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