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Scientists develop a plaster to treat skin cancer

Scientists have unveiled a sticking plaster-type device which can be used to treat skin cancer.

The light-emitting Ambulight PDT can be worn by patients as they move around, reducing the amount of time they need to spend in hospitals.

It also aims to make treatment more comfortable and avoids scarring.

In the new treatment, a special cream is applied to the skin and the 2in (5cm) wide device, which comes with a power source about the size of an iPod, is stuck on top.

After three hours the light switches on for around three hours, causing a photochemical reaction which works to kill the cancer, a process known as photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Previously the special light equipment was based in hospitals, meaning that patients would have to spend hours there for treatment. They would wait three hours while the cream took effect and then undergo 20 minutes of intense light therapy.

With the Ambulight, patients only need to spend a short amount of time in hospital while the cream is applied, and can then carry on with their daily routine.

Ifor Samuel, professor of physics at St Andrews University in Britain, developed the device with James Ferguson, professor of dermatology at Dundee University.

Professor Samuel said: "It is more comfortable for the patient as they can move around.

"It could speed up treatment because at present only a few places have the specialist equipment and they can only treat a limited number of people.

"This should make treatment much more widely available."

About 50 people have so far been treated with the device and scientists said feedback had been positive.

As the light therapy is delivered over three hours, it is gentler than the intense 20-minute burst given in hospital.