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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Sep;115(3):441-8.

Non-invasive raman spectroscopic detection of carotenoids in human skin.

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University of Utah, Department of Dermatology, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.


Carotenoids are thought to play a significant part in the skin's anti-oxidant defense system, and may help prevent malignancy. Inability to measure skin carotenoid content readily has, however, made it difficult to establish the relationship between carotenoid concentration and the occurrence of cutaneous malignancy. We have measured in vivo carotenoid concentration using a noninvasive optical method, Raman spectroscopy. To validate our instrumentation, abdominoplasty skin was evaluated by both Raman spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography determination for carotenoid content. Evaluation of the Raman signal in specific carotenoid solutions was also performed. Precision of Raman measurements within skin sites, within subjects, and between subjects was measured. Sensitivity of the method was evaluated as a function of anatomical region and the distribution of carotenoids within the stratum corneum. Lastly, we evaluated the Raman signal in actinic keratosis and basal cell carcinoma lesions and perilesional skin and compared this with region-matched sites in healthy subjects. Our results indicate that the Raman scattering method reflects the presence of carotenoids in human skin and is highly reproducible. Evaluation of five anatomical regions demonstrated significant differences in carotenoid concentration by body region with the highest carotenoid concentration noted in the palm. Comparison of carotenoid concentrations in basal cell carcinomas, actinic keratosis, and their perilesional skin demonstrate a significantly lower carotenoid concentration than in region-matched skin of healthy subjects. These results represent the first evidence that carotenoid concentration in the skin correlate with the presence or absence of skin cancer and precancerous lesions.

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