Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has been used to distinguish normal and malignant tumor cells from histological sections. LIBS measures concentrations of trace elements directly in real-time. It has been observed that the concentration of trace elements in normal and the tumor cells vary significantly. This technique can be incorporated with laser scalpel to monitor the cancer affected area during the surgery. LIBS spectrum of hair and nail has also been recorded. This technique has potential to be an automated, real-time diagnostic procedure for cancer that would greatly facilitate their diagnosis and classification.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.