New Non Surgical Skin Cancer Treatment - - The News for South Mississippi

New Non Surgical Skin Cancer Treatment

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one out of every three new cancers is a skin cancer. The most common types of skin cancer are the nonmelanomas, the majority of which are either basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma.

Every year, about 800,000 Americans develop basal cell carcinoma. It’s the most common form of skin cancer, arising from cells in the bottom of the epidermis (the outer layer of skin). These cancers are typically slow growing and develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, ears, neck, shoulders, and back.

Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common type of skin cancer, with more than 200,000 cases in the U.S. annually. The cancer develops from the cells in the upper layers of skin in sun-exposed areas, such as the face, ear, neck, lips, and backs of the hands. These cancers are more aggressive than basal cell carcinomas, sometimes invading underlying tissue spreading to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

Actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin condition characterized by development small rough spots, usually on the face, ears, backs of the hands, or arms. The spots may be reddish pink, brown, or flesh-colored. Patients often develop several of the patches over the body. In most cases, the areas don’t cause any symptoms, but they can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.

Treating Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, several different types of treatment are used for nonmelanoma skin cancer, such as surgery, curettage (scraping), electrosurgery (burning with an electric needle), cryosurgery (freezing with liquid nitrogen), radiation therapy, and laser therapy. While the treatments can be effective, they can require repeated doctor visits and sometimes leave areas of scarring.

Researchers are testing a cream, called Aldara™ (imiquimod), for some patients with nonmelanoma skin cancers. When placed on the skin, the cream activates the body’s immune system, stimulating cytokines, such as interleukin, to attack the skin cancer cells. Preliminary investigation shows the cream produces nearly complete destruction of the skin cancer. The treatment doesn’t produce any scarring and can be used by the patient at home.

Aldara is currently approved as a treatment for genital warts and is being tested off-label for nonmelanoma skin cancer and actinic keratosis. Ideally, the cream is applied twice a day for six weeks. However, some patients develop skin irritation or ulceration with use and need to apply the cream less frequently (such as once a day, every other day). A drawback of the treatment is its price – about $150 to $175 for twelve individual packets.

For general information on skin cancer:

  • American Cancer Society, , or contact your local chapter
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation, 245 Fifth Ave., Suite 1403, New York, NY 10016, , (800) SKIN-490
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