Then screening technology used at airport security check points has been shown to offer great potential for peering underneath human skin to diagnose cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages, new research shows.
The findings, reported a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Indianapolis this week, indicate "T-rays" — terahertz radiation — used in security devices to peek under clothing can accurately identify biochemical changes under the skin that lead to mole-like melanomas, before they appear on the surface of the body.
"Terahertz radiation is ideal for looking beneath the skin and detecting early signs of melanoma," said Anis Rahman, president and chief technology officer of Applied Research & Photonics in Harrisburg, Pa., who presented the findings.
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Rahman explained that malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, starts in pigment-producing cells located in the deepest part of the outer layer of the skin.
"T-rays are different from X-rays, which are 'ionizing' radiation that can cause damage," he added. "T-rays are a form of 'non-ionizing' radiation, like ordinary visible light, but they can be focused harmlessly below into the body and capture biochemical signatures of events like the start of cancer."
T-rays penetrate only a few millimeters — about the width of several dozen pieces of paper — through cloth, skin, and other non-metallic material. In addition to their use in airport security check points, the pharmaceutical industry uses them to check the surface integrity of pills and capsules and art dealers utilize them to probe beneath the top layers of famous paintings and other culturally significant artwork.
Rahman said T-rays might also one day be used to detect early stages of tooth decay, trace pesticides on produce, and concealed weapons under clothing
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