A non-invasive device for detecting skin cancer developed by researchers in British Columbia has been approved by Health Canada.

The regulatory green light means that the Verisante Aura device can now be marketed and sold in Canada. 

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Dr. Harvey Lui, head of the dermatology department at the University of British Columbia and one of the co-inventors of the Verisante Aura, uses the device on a patient's arm. (Verisante)

Currently, if someone has a skin lesion they need to have a biopsy to find out whether it is malignant.

Vancouver-based Verisante Technology, Inc., a medical device company, said its tool helps doctors evaluate if suspected skin lesions are cancerous or benign in less than two seconds.

The machine detects melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer. It also helps identify basal cell and squamous cell versions of the disease, which together make up about 96 per cent of all skin cancers, the company said.

The optical system uses Raman spectroscopy, a technique that distinguishes molecules based on vibrational states, to biochemically analyze the skin.

Until now, dermatologists made a judgment on which moles warrant a biopsy based on a visual assessment.

Scientists at the British Columbia Cancer Agency and the University of British Columbia developed the device, which is licensed to the company.