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Fluorescent Skin Dye Offers Temporary Option for Skin Cancer Management

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A team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed a novel fluorescent ink to temporarily tag the skin cancer lesion.

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January 4, 2017 | by Sarah Hand, M.Sc.

With the exception of melanoma, most types are skin cancer lesions are identified and tagged using small tattoos. While this method helps physicians track which areas need additional treatment, the long-lasting tattoo ink used can cause inflammation and can even be confused with lesions when a patient is being monitored in the future.

A team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed a novel fluorescent ink to temporarily tag the skin cancer lesion. Not visible by the naked eye, the dye only fluoresces under light with a wavelength of 465 nanometers.

“Tattooing has been utilized by the medical community for precisely demarcating anatomic landmarks,” said the study authors in their ACS Nano publication. “This practice is especially important for identifying biopsy sites of nonmelanoma skin cancer due to the long interval (i.e., up to 3 months) between the initial diagnostic biopsy and surgical treatment.”



Unlike the standard tattoo dye, the fluorescent ink fades over time. The researchers reported that the retention time of the dye was around 3 months, which coincides with the average time between a patient’s initial biopsy and when they receive surgical treatment.

The transdermal dye is composed of cross-linked fluorescent supramolecular nanoparticles and a fluorescent conjugated polymer center. The fluorescent dye has only been tested in mice, where it showed no propensity to trigger local inflammation.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common form of the disease diagnosed in Canada. Statistics on the incidence of these types of skin cancer are, however, difficult to collect because diagnosis and treatment are often both done by a patient’s regular physician.


Keywords: Skin Cancer, Biopsy, Surgery


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