A Tattoo That Can Help Discover Early Cancers
Tattoos have been used by individuals for expression, remembrance, or artistry, but now a tattoo could be used in the early detection of cancer. Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland believe they have developed a tattoo that can screen for early signs of major medical diseases. The tattoo includes sensors that screen a patients blood and measures calcium levels. A sudden spike in calcium in the blood, called hypercalcemia, is a marker for several major diseases, including cancer. When this spike is detected, the implant produces melanin, forming a mole-like spot indicating that a check up is needed.
According to Cancer Research UK, when cancer is discovered in the first stage, survival rates for individuals with eight of the most common types of cancer is three times higher. For some types of cancer like bowel, ovarian, breast cancer, the survival rate for patients who discover it early can be as high as 90%. Since survival rate is often tied to early detection, research in the field has focused on finding new and innovative ways to help look out for early warning signs.
Detecting these calcium changes in the blood early will allow doctors to quickly follow-up and possibly detect major medical conditions like dementia, renal failure or early cancers. While this technology is still a few years away from being used in humans, it paves an important first step in early detection with biomedical implants that is sure to be a growing field.