How Bananas Can Help Detect, Cure Skin Cancer

How Bananas Can Help Detect, Cure Skin Cancer

The black spots on bananas can tell us a lot more than how ripe a banana is.

Those spots could be the key to finding a faster, easier diagnosis of human skin cancer, which would significantly raise survival rates.

Tyrosinase is the enzyme that causes banana skins to burst with black spots when they ripen. It’s actually the same enzyme found on human skin, and in greater quantities in people suffering from melanoma – a deadly type of skin cancer.

Scientists saw the parallel between the two skins, and developed a ‘cancer scanner’. The researchers from the Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry in Switzerland concluded that the enzyme is a reliable marker of melanoma growth.

The enzyme has very little presence in stage 1 of the cancer; it evenly and widely spreads in stage 2; it unevenly distributes in stage 3. Catching the pattern in stage 1 is key, as it makes all the difference in terms of survival chances.

According to the American Cancer Society, people have a 10-year survival rate of 95 percent if the melanoma is detected in stage 1 — falling to 43 percent by mid-stage 3.

MelanomaSo the researchers have been taking the prototype scanner to bananas, whose spots are roughly the same size as melanoma spots on human skin.

“By working with fruit, we were able to develop and test a diagnostic method before trying it on human biopsies,” team leader Hubert Girault said in a statement.

The scanner passes over the skin to measure the quantity and distribution of tyrosinase. If the scanner can consistently detect the enzyme in stage 1, it’ll be huge it tackling skin cancer before it reaches fatal levels.

And the scanner, like banana skins, may have another purpose, too: Girault believes the scanner could be used one day to destroy tumors.

“Our initial laboratory tests showed us that our device could be used to destroy the cells,” he said.

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