November 26, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

Detection of skin cancer is usually done by the eye alone. Now Israeli researchers have developed a new device that can detect cancerous tumors at an earlier stage.



Photo courtesy of Miriam Alster, Flash90
Sunbathers are particularly at risk of developing skin cancer if they don’t protect their skin from the sun.

Researchers in Israel are developing a new device that can detect cancerous skin tumors, including melanomas that aren’t visible to the naked eye, at an earlier stage of the disease.

The Optical Spectro-Polarimetric Imaging (OSPI) instrument, developed at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), reveals new textures of lesions that have never been seen before – including melanoma in patients who were diagnosed with various skin lesions and were awaiting surgery for their removal. The instrument diagnosed 73 types of lesions, some of them cancerous.

More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US every year according to the American Cancer Society. Of the 11,590 deaths due to skin cancer in 2009, some 8,650 will be due to melanoma, the most serious and dangerous type of skin cancer.

Today, dermatologists and plastic surgeons typically diagnose skin tumors with the naked eye and only rarely use a dermatoscope – a magnifying tool that allows tumors to be examined in detail.

Skin cancer and beyond

Cancerous mole detection is usually done by looking for one or more telltale visible symptoms: if the mole is asymmetrical; if it’s outline is blurred or irregular; if it has multiple colors; if it is larger than five millimeters in diameter; and if stands up above the skin.

The OSPI biosensor, however, uses safe, infrared wavelengths and LC devices to measure tumor characteristics, including contours and spread, identifying tumors at an earlier stage.

“This is an exciting preliminary development since the initial testing shows that we can now identify microscopic tumors in the biological layers of the skin,” explains Prof. Ibrahim Abdulahim, who is head of the BGU Electro-Optical Unit in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences and is leading the research group.

“As we continue to develop the OSPI, we also see an opportunity to use this technology for detecting other types of cancerous growths.”

Abdulahim is supervising this research with Ph.D candidate Ofir Aharon and MS.c student Avner Safrani. He is also collaborating with BGU Prof. Lior Rosenberg and Dr. Ofer Arnon from the Department of Plastic Surgery at Soroka University Medical Center.

Sign up for the ISRAEL21c Newsletter

More on Health

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

Read more: