Fortunately for some of those former sun revelers, a topical treatment for certain types of skin cancer means they won’t have to worry about scarring, say dermatologists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Topical cream helps
While a topical treatment for precancerous cells has been around for more than 30 years, it was only in the last five to 10 years that a topical cream was developed for cancerous lesions.
“The cream, called Aldara™, only works for certain types of skin cancer,” said Dr. Ida Orengo, professor of dermatology at BCM and director of the Mohs Surgery Center at the Baylor Clinic. “You simply rub it on the area, usually at night, and after about four to six weeks, the cancer is gone in about 80 percent of the cases.”
It is FDA approved for superficial basal cell and actinic keratosis but has shown good results for squamous cell carcinoma in situ, she said.
Works with immune system
“It works by turning on the body’s immune system,” said Orengo. “Your body starts to recognize those cancer cells are not normal and kills them off.”
Skin cancer is typically removed by scraping and burning or cutting the area. This can leave a scar or even multiple scars since superficial basal cell carcinomas can appear in several spots close together, but not connected. Orengo said the cream allows for a larger area of coverage and usually heals without leaving behind scars.
“While the cream works the area can look raw and begin to scab,” she said. “But when treatment is over it heals beautifully.”
A small area of redness or discoloration can be left behind initially but that will eventually fade. Some side affects include a risk of bacterial infection. Orengo said daily cleansing is important to counter that risk. Since the cream affects the immune system, those who have autoimmune disorders might see those symptoms increase in severity and should probably not be used in these patients.
“This might not work for everyone,” Orengo said. “But for those who have superficial basal cell carinoma on visible areas like the face or chest where you don’t want scars, it is a good treatment option to talk to your doctor about.”
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HOUSTON — (February 27, 2009)