Near-infrared heating of skin to delineate non-melanoma skin cancer lesions: A pilot study

Skin Cancer

Skin Res Technol. 2020 Jul 26. doi: 10.1111/srt.12936. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Surgical excision is a mainstay of treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC); improving margin delineation can reduce the need for further monitoring/treatment. The objective of this pilot study was to determine if near-infrared radiation (NIR) application to skin causes visible changes in normal and NMSC skin, to help delineate margins.

MATERIALS/METHODS: Eleven biopsy-proven NMSC lesions were included. The skin was then heated under a 175W NIR heating bulb; margins were traced onto acetate film before and after heating. Lesions were then randomly assigned to excision based on pre- or post-heating margins. Composite images were generated by overlaying the heat and no-heat lesion contours. All specimens were sent for histopathology.

RESULTS: The range of closest margins in the control group was 2.0-3.0 mm with a median of 2.0 mm; the range in the intervention group was 4.0-9.0 mm with a median of 5.0 mm. Composite images showed larger heat contours when the initial lesion was larger. There was a statistically significant difference between the two groups. Overall, NIR light caused visible hyperaemia to skin, and more intense erythema to malignant skin lesions.

CONCLUSION: Near-infrared light may have use in an outpatient setting for skin cancer delineation, possibly reducing the rate of positive margins.