Sniffing out skin cancer by smell

Sniffing out skin cancer by smell

News and Articles
Aug 25 2008

According to researchers in the U.S. the smell skin gives off could indicate the presence of skin cancers. They say cancers such as basal cell carcinomas can be identified by the odour on the skin.

The researchers make this claim following a study where the air above basal cell tumours was found to present a different profile of chemical compounds compared with skin located at the same sites in healthy control subjects.

They say smelling odours from the skin could help to identify basal cell carcinomas – current methods often involve a visual exam and a biopsy which can be invasive.

They believe their findings could lead to the development of new methods to detect basal cell carcinomas and other forms of skin cancer and now intend to characterise the skin odour profiles associated with other forms of skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Michelle Gallagher, who conducted the research while a postdoctoral fellow at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia sampled air above basal cell tumours which revealed that cancerous tissue and healthy tissue contained volatile organic compounds that emit different smells.

Gallagher says the odour profile coming from the skin of skin cancer patients was markedly different to that from healthy skin.

The research was presented at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in Philadelphia.


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