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Journal of Biomedical Optics

Polarization-sensitive optical coherence tomography of invasive basal cell carcinoma
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Paper Abstract

Skin cancer is the most common human malignancy, with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) the most frequent type. Aggressive forms of BCC are associated with extensive dermal invasion and destruction of collagen. Surgery is the most common treatment, but identification of tumor borders is a challenge. Polarization-sensitive optical coherence tomography (PS-OCT) is an optical method to examine collagen birefringence. To date, it has not been exploited for cancer management. As part of a pilot exploratory study to examine the use of OCT in skin cancer, we examined several tumors that pose a challenge to the surgeon due to their large size and histological subtype. In normal perilesional skin, OCT identifies epidermal and dermal structure; PS-OCT identified dermal birefringence. In BCC, tumors lost normal structure and gained the appearance of lobular impressions. PS-OCT identified an alteration of dermal birefringence. Examination of a border area revealed a gradual transition from more normal appearing image to frank tumor. These results indicate that PS-OCT can identify features that distinguish normal skin from tumor and may have the potential to guide surgeons in the treatment of aggressive skin cancer.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 March 2004
PDF: 7 pages
J. Biomed. Opt. 9(2) doi: 10.1117/1.1644118
Published in: Journal of Biomedical Optics Volume 9, Issue 2
Show Author Affiliations
John Strasswimmer, Massachusetts General Hospital (United States)
Mark C. Pierce, Harvard Medical School (United States)
Hyle Park, Harvard Medical School (United States)
Victor Neel, Massachusetts General Hospital (United States)
Johannes F. de Boer, Harvard Medical School (United States)


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