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Skin Cancer Slowed With Skin Treatments
From the desk of Dr. Magne, author of Cancer Free For Life
Acid skin peel, and laser resurfacing, all remove precancerous skin growths and slow skin cancer -- but patients prefer the peel.
Precancerous growths, which are small areas of discrete roughness to the skin, come from too much sun. Particularly when a person has a lot of them, they tend to become squamous cell carcinomas: skin cancer.
Doctors often burn off these growths, called actinic keratoses, with liquid nitrogen. But there's evidence of other ways of removing them work at least as well, and they slow the development of skin cancer.
These techniques were compared in 24 men. The patients had an average age of 73; all but three had previously had skin cancers removed. Five similar patients served as an untreated comparison group.
Before treatment, the 24 men had dozens of precancerous facial growths. The researchers treated the men with laser resurfacing, or an acid skin peel. All treatments worked, reducing the number of precancerous skin growths 89% for the skin peel, and 92% for the laser. The treatments also seemed to slow the development of new skin cancers.
Left untreated, the patients would be expected to develop 1.7 new facial skin cancers a year. That's close to what happened in the untreated comparison group. But the treated patients had only 0.04 to 0.22 new skin cancers per year.
In the acid peel arm, one cancer per 26.1 years would be expected, compared with 1 cancer per 6.79 and 4.77 years in the laser arms. The untreated comparison group had 1.57 new cancers per year: that is, one new cancer every eight months. The patients who got the acid peel were much more compliant with treatment, and had fewer side effects than those treated with laser.
Repeated treatments may be needed. In any case, patients with precancerous facial growths must get careful follow-up care. Because the study had several limitations -- including its small size, infrequent use of sunscreen, and a control group that was not randomly picked -- the researchers warn that their findings must be confirmed in larger studies.
Still, of interest is to note that there are alternative treatments to skin cancer, and even though reasonably invasive, they show fewer long-term side effects than the traditional approaches of chemotherapy or burning.
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