Early cancer detection is the central and most important factor for allowing successful treatment and resultant positive long-term patient outcomes. Recently, optical techniques have been applied to this purpose, although each has inherent limitations. In particular, Raman spectroscopy applied in the pathological diagnosis of cancerous tissues has received increasing attention, with the merit of being highly sensitive to the biochemical alterations in tissue compositions and applicable in vivo. Nevertheless, its application has been impeded by the high background intensity, which masks the Raman signal of biological molecules. In this work, the influence of laser excitation wavelength (785 vs. 830 nm) and optical mode (single mode vs. multimode) on the background intensity of fresh human tissues was studied. Based on the results, laser with 830 nm excitation demonstrated better background reduction than that with 785 nm excitation for the same optical mode, but the Raman signal intensity was conversely reduced, and the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) not improved. In contrast, by comparing single-mode and multimode 785 nm excitations, it was shown that the single-mode laser with its smaller beam waist and beam propagation factor had better background reduction ability and an improvement of the SNRs. It is speculated that this decrease in background intensity comes from the effect of the optical mode on the Mie scattering from the biological tissue. High-quality spectra based on a careful selection of both laser excitation wavelength and optical mode will benefit Raman measurements in further research focusing on spectral interpretation and histopathological correlation ultimately aimed toward intraoperative applications. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.