Identification of melanoma with a gas sensor array

A. D'amico, R. Bono, G. Pennazza, M. Santonico, G. Mantini, M. Bernabei, M. Zarlenga, C. Roscioni, E. Martinelli, R. Paolesse, C. Di Natale

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Background/purpose: The relationship between diseases and alterations of the airborne chemicals emitted from the body has been found in many different pathologies and in particular for various forms of cancer. Metabolism of cancer cells is greatly altered during their lifetime; then, modification of chemicals is supposed to be large around cancer tissues. Positive hints in this direction were provided, as an example, on studying the breath composition of lung cancer-affected subjects. Besides the conventional analytical approaches, in recent years sensor arrays were also applied to these researches considering the chemical composition changes as those occurring in other applications such as for instance, those dealing with food quality measurements. Methods: In this paper, the first application of sensor arrays to study the differentiation between melanomas and nevi, namely malignant and benign affection of melanocytary cells, respectively, is presented and discussed. The localization of lesions on the skin surface made possible the utilization of differential measurements aimed at capturing the differences between two adjacent skin regions. This approach strongly reduces the influence of skin headspace variability due to the peculiar subjective odour background and the skin odour variability. The measurement campaign involved 40 cases; 10 of these were diagnosed melanomas referred to surgical intervention. Nine of these diagnoses were further confirmed by histological examinations of the removed tissue and one was a false positive. Results: The differences in the chemical composition of headspace were verified with a gas-chromatographic investigation, and the classification of electronic nose data provided an estimated cross-validated accuracy of the same order of magnitude as the currently used diagnostic instruments. Conclusion: Electronic nose sensors have been shown to have good sensitivity towards volatile organic compounds emitted by skin lesions, and the method seems to be effective for malign lesions identification. The results presented in this paper encourage a second experimental campaign with a larger number of participants and a systematic use of gas chromatography mass spectrometer technology in order to identify some possible melanoma biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-236
Number of pages11
JournalSkin Research and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


  • Electronic nose
  • Head space
  • Non-invasive diagnosis
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)

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    D'amico, A., Bono, R., Pennazza, G., Santonico, M., Mantini, G., Bernabei, M., Zarlenga, M., Roscioni, C., Martinelli, E., Paolesse, R., & Di Natale, C. (2008). Identification of melanoma with a gas sensor array. Skin Research and Technology, 14(2), 226-236.