Rays of Resilience

Genetically-Engineered Moles: The Latest — And Weirdest — In Early Breast Cancer Detection

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Women whose breast cancer is detected in stage one have almost a 100-percent five-year survival rate, whereas women in stage IV only have about a 22-percent chance of surviving for that same five years. The best way to ensure a good prognosis, therefore, is to catch the disease early, before it grows and spreads very much.

However, this isn’t always an easy feat, especially since early-stage cancers are often undetectable or have very mild symptoms that are easy to miss. Most of us only visit the doctor for a physical and/or mammogram only about once a year, and far too many women neglect their monthly self-exams or are unable to find a detectable lump during a breast self-exam.

So how can we be expected to save more women from breast cancer deaths if we can’t always catch it before it starts to take off? Well, scientists believe they have finally developed a unique technology to help with this very issue.

The team of Swiss researchers has created a man-made mole that blends in with the skin. However, when confronted with elevated levels of calcium in the blood, the mole responds by creating extra melanin, making it appear visibly darker on the skin.

Increased levels of calcium in the bloodstream can be an early warning sign of many cancers, such as prostate, lung, bowel, and, of course, breast cancer. But it’s an easy symptom to miss, as most of us don’t spend our days having our blood calcium levels tested. So a built-in device that would do all the monitoring for you could be a welcome layer of protection to many, particularly to women who have a high risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers say the same technology could be used to create a mole that is only visible under red light. This way, if the mole becomes activated, you won’t have the constant reminder of possible cancer clearly marked on your skin, and you won’t have to constantly check your skin for signs of the mole. Instead, you would have the mole checked by your doctor at regular appointments.

The team hopes this technology can be further developed to detect other chemical signals which could be early warning signs of diseases like dementia and hormonal disorders.

This surprising piece of innovative technology has been tested on human cells, pig’s skin, and mice, and it performed well in all of these tests. It will hopefully enter human tests within five years and be available to the public within 10 years.


Click here to learn about another surprising innovation in breast cancer care.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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