Engineering, 2013, 5, 18-21 Published Online October 2013 (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
Skin Cancer Detection Usi ng Temperatu re Variation
Ahmed M. Nasr Mo ustafa1, Hamed Ha mid Muhamm e d1, Moustapha Hassan2
1Division of Informatics, Logistics and Management, School of Technology and Health STH,
Royal Institute of Technology KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
2Clinical Research Center Novum, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden
Received September 2012
In the medical field, new techno logies are incorporated for the sole purpose of enhancing the quality of life for the pa-
tients and even for the normal healthy people. Infrared technology is one of the technologies that have some applica-
tions in both the medical and biological fields. In th is work, the thermal infrared (I R) measu rement is used to investigate
the potential of skin cancer detection. IR enjoys non-invasive and non-contact advantages as well as favorable cost, ap-
parently. It is also very well developed regarding the technological and methodological aspects. IR per se is an electro -
metric radiation that all objects emit when their temperature is above the absolute zero. And the human body is not dif-
ferent in this regard. The IR range extends, ideally, to cover wavelengths from 800 nanometer to few hundred
micrometer. Cancer, in modern life, has grown tang ibly due to many factor s, such as life expectancies increase, pe rson-
al habits and ultraviolet radiation exposures among others. Moreover, the significant enhancement of technologies has
helped identifying more types of cancers than before. The sole purpose of this work is to investigate further IR technol-
ogy methods and applications not yet matured in skin cancer detection to enhance the detection ability with higher
safety level.
Keywords: Infrared; Skin Cancer; Melanoma; Thermal; Detection
1. Introduction
Every object above absolute zero temperature (0 K)
emits infrared (IR) electromagnetic radiation. In human
skin, it is mostly the blood circulation and cells’ me ta -
bolic activity that produce heat [6 ]. The emissivity of the
human skin can be approximated as a true black body
with unity value [2,6]. The natural emission of thermal
infrared (IR) from the human body adds an important
advantage to any approach that is based on measuring
and analyzing this natural thermal emission. This makes
such a technique clearly superior to any other invasive
What makes things even more feasible are probably
the cancer properties themselves. The regular definition
of cancer is likely to contain an indication to abnormal
growth of cells due to changes in gene expression which
causes loss of control exerted normally on human cells.
This leads to a profound effect on cell characteristics
such as proliferation rate, size, shape, etc. Furthermore,
cancer is regularly accompanied with angiogenesis [3,4];
i.e. new formation of blood vessels to supply enough
nutrition and oxygen to the cancerous area. The afore-
mentioned in short suggests that cancerous cells can
stand out when thermal infrared (IR) emission is in-
volved. In addition, IR radiation from human skin seems
to be accompanied also with functional properties [2].
This is considered as an advantage that is always wel-
The skin is known to be a vital organ for the human
body. It is also the largest organ of the body, which
makes out one-third of a normal person’s total body
weight [1]. It is, naturally, responsible for many bio-
logical functions as well as its inherent protection
functions such as sensory functions, and metabolism
of nutrition such as vitamin D3 [1,3]. The skin is
mainly divided into three layers: the epidermis, the
dermis and the hypodermis. The outermost layer is the
epidermis. The innermost layer is the subcutaneous
layer, also called hypodermis. The dermis is the mid-
dle layer that is sandwiched between the epidermis
and the hypode rm is .
Millions of skin cancer cases are recorded every year
around the world [1,5,8]. It is probably the most
common cancer that can be developed in a human be-
ing. Skin cancer per se is a type of epithelial tissue
cancer. It can be both benign and malignant. Since
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
skin has easy access to both the nearby lymphatic sys-
tem as well as the nearby blood stream, malignant
types can produce metastasis that are easily trans-
ported and spread to other organs and tissues in the
body and be come extremely l ethal. Actually it is these
metastases that can cause most deaths from skin can-
Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer
that is considered to be highly malignant and fatal.
Melanoma usually originates in many cases in moles,
which are intensive clusters of melanocytes [1]. Two
other well-known forms of skin cancer are: basal cell
carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcino ma (SCC).
Both of them are, usually, less harmful than melanoma.
BCC is the most common form of skin cancer [1,3].
There is also a high risk that these types extend and
produce harmful effect on their neighborhood. In rare
cases they can become malignant and metastastic [1].
This is a risk that is nor mally taken into account since
they become aggressi ve and li fe threateni ng.
2. Methods
In this work, anon contact IR temperature sensor is used
to test the ability of the detection of the presence of skin
cancer. Human skin is often referred to as a black body
as mentioned above. The main range of measurement for
the current study has IR-radiation wavelengths of 8 - 14
µm. The used technique is a noncontact localized detec-
tion and is thought to be advantageous mainly because of
black body radiation has nearly 40% of its emitted
IR-radiation power within this specific spectral region at
the corresponding temperature of the skin [10]; i.e. the
largest percentage of the radiated power. This can makes
it easier for the detection of anomalies in IR radiation
from the skin in the presence of skin cancer. Moreover,
at the used detection wavelengths, IR radiation suffers
nearly no absorption from air gas molecules [11], which
constitutes another advantage.
Two laboratory animals were used for the actual mea-
surements in this work. Each lab animal (mouse) was
injected with cancerous cells under the skin at an arbi-
trary spot and allowed to develop skin cancer. The area
around the injection spot was shaved as well as another
healthy area to be used as a normal reference was also
shaved. After several days, the skin cancer was devel-
oped and became visually apparent. Thereafter, the mea-
surement process was conducted. Figure 1 portrays a
simplified schematic of the experimental setup. The two
animals used were well restrained and motionless during
the procedure by proper means used in the laboratory.
Two non-contact thermal IR sensors from Optris
GMBH were used concurrently. These sensors were
identical; i.e. from the same manufacturer and of the
same type. Figure 2 shows an image for the sensor type
that was used. The sensors had the ability to record 1000
measurements per second and had a resolution of 0.1˚C.
One of the sensors was used to measure the temperature
variation of a healthy area of the skin and the other one
was used to measure the temperature variation due to the
heat emission from the cancerous area. The measure-
Figure 1. A simplified schematic of the measurement setup of the thermal IR emission from the lab animal (mouse) and direct
storage to a computer.
Figure 2. (a) Detection field of view size vs. distance from the IR sensor (D is the diameter of the field-of-viewspot, S is the
distance from the top of the IR sensor); (b) An image of the sensing head of the used IR sensor.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
ments were performed simultaneously to obtain a form of
a differential overview that coincided well in time. The
measurements were conducted for a sufficient period of
time and stored for later analysis and investigation.
It is worth mentioning that each sensor was placed di-
rectly above the measured spot at a close distance of 1
cm to form a direct well-localized measurement and to
maximize a solid IR detection. The sensors were con-
nected simultaneously to a computer and had the capabil-
ity of storing two long lists of temperature measurements
vs. the time.
3. Results and Discussion
The obtained experimental results were in the form of
tabulated temperature measurements for the healthy skin
area and the cancerous area in the skin. Both sets of
measurements were simultaneously conducted to achieve
synchronization. These results were stored on the com-
puter internal storage.
The first step of analyzing the acquired data was to
compute a number of statistical parameters for the heal-
thy and the cancerous skin areas for each lab animal.
Thereafter, the next step was to qualitatively compare
these parameters in an efficient and reliable way.
Statistical tests, such as the student-test as well as the
ANOVA test were also used to be able to see if it was
possible to differentiate between the IR emission mea-
surements acquired on a healthy spot and the corres-
ponding measurements that were acquired on a skin can-
cer spot.
Table 1 displays the r esults for a sample dataset of ten
measurements for the cancerous spot in one animal. The
columns of the table in this figure contain the calculated
values for the mean, medi an , standard deviation, ma xi-
mum, minimum as well as the difference between the
maximum and the minimum values of the ten-measure-
ments sample dataset corresponding to a sufficient period
of time .
Table 2 shows the corresponding calculated values for
ten concurrent measurements for a healthy spot that is
used as a comparison reference in the same lab animal.
Preliminary results, of a quantitative comparison be-
tween the values of the parameters presented in these two
tables, indicate that there exists a tangible difference be-
tween the mean and the median temperature values that
can differentiate between the cancerous region and the
corresponding healthy region of the skin in the same
animal. All other calculated parameters, such as the
standard deviation, maxi mum, min i mum, etc., had no
apparent advantage in this context.
The two statistical analysis tasks (the pair-wise student
t-test and the pair-wise ANOVA test) were performed,
where 1000 acquired measurements were used at each
time , not only the small subset of ten measurements that
were used to calculate the values presented in the tables.
The student t-test was conducted pair-wise between
each dataset of 1000 measurements of the cancerous re-
gion in one of the two used lab animals and the corres-
ponding dataset of 1000 measurements from the healthy
skin spot in the same lab animal.
The t-test analysis results showed a significant differ-
ence between the datasets of 1000 measurements ob-
tained from each pair of a healthy skin region and the
corresponding cancerous one in each lab animal. As a
result, p-value levels around 0.05 was obtained in both
lab animals (actually even better, i.e. lower, p-values
Table 1. Calculations performed on ten measurements (columns) each for a similar period of time in the cancerous spot (all
number are i n ˚C).
Mean 31.94 31.76 31.96 31.72 31.81 31.89 31.97 32.03 32.04 32.05
Median 31.9 31.8 32 31.7 31.8 31.9 32 32 32 32.1
StdDev 0.23 0.26 0.21 0.21 0.20 0.26 0.20 0.23 0.26 0.21
Max 32.5 32.5 32.6 32.2 32.3 32.6 32.5 32.7 32.7 32.6
Min 31.3 31.2 31.2 31.1 31.2 31.2 31.3 31.1 31.2 31.5
Max-Min 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.1 1.1 1.4 1.2 1.6 1.5 1.1
Table 2. Calculations performed on the corresponding ten measurements (columns) each for a similar period of time in the
normal spot (all number are in ˚C).
mean 31.44 31.45 31.32 31.31 31.38 31.30 31.19 31.24 31.27 31.24
31.4 31.4 31.3 31.3 31.4 31.3 31.2 31.3 31.3 31.2
0.23 0.21 0.23 0.25 0.20 0.24 0.24 0.21 0.21 0.23
Max 32 32.4 31.9 32.1 32 31.9 31.9 31.9 31.9 31.9
Min 30.9 30.9 30.7 30.5 30.9 30.4 30.5 30.6 30.6 30.5
1.1 1.5 1.2 1.6 1.1 1.5 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.4
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
were obtained).
These results would lead to a strong indication that
thermal IR sensors (operating within the wavelength
range 8 - 14 μm) can be used to locally detect and iden-
tify an area of cancer on the skin (in comparison to a
neighboring normal healthy skin spot). Both animals
showed this trend in the conducted student t-test.
The other statistical test, that was used to investigate
the significance of using the acquired IR emission mea-
surements, was ANOVA. Pair-wise ANOVA was con-
ducted in a similar fashion for datasets of 1000 mea-
surements from both animals. This test served to streng-
then the significance of our experimental approach; that
the difference in temperature measured using thermal IR
radiation within the wavelength range 8 - 14 μm was not
due to chance, but rather to real variation between
healthy and cancerous regions of the lab animals under
4. Conclusion
The results and the conducted analysis performed in this
work suggest that a significant difference between the
thermal IR radiation from healthy and cancerous skin
regions shows potential for discriminating cancerous
spots on the skin against healthy ones. Therefore it can
be concluded that there is strong evidence that tempera-
ture distribution measured can be a highly sufficient in-
dication for cancerous regions in the skin of the lab ani-
mals. This however might need further work to develop
into an established technique which will occur in the fu-
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