By Margarita Nahapetyan
A cream used to prevent early signs of skin cancer have been found to reduce wrinkles and make skin look younger, scientists reported earlier this week. And what is even more, the cream helps to improve skin tone and erases brown spots.
Fluorouracil, marketed as Efudex, is applied to the skin as an ointment. It is also used intravenously for chemotherapy for treating individuals who have been diagnosed with head, neck, liver and bowel cancer. Efudex cream, applied topically for actinic keratoses - a form of pre-cancer usually found on the face, neck and forearms - also seems to stimulate collagen.
The findings are based on a small study, conducted by the University of Michigan team of scientists. For the study purposes, researchers involved a group of patients with the ages between 56 and 85 years who have been treated for actinic keratoses and sun damage. All the 21 participants used the cream twice a day on the face for the period of two weeks and the investigators measured changes in their skin, taking facial biopsies over a 6-month period.
The results revealed that 2 weeks later, the number of actinic keratoses on the skin of to only 1. In the beginning, the cream did cause some symptoms, such as itching and mild irritation, but all this went away over some time. Almost all patients reported that their skin has significantly improved - even though some of them said it was left with inflammation and described it as 'looking like raw hamburger meat'.
A lead author of the study, Dr. Dana Sachs and colleagues wanted to find out if they could actually measure a difference in the appearance of skin. What they discovered was that the drug had a big effect. According to Dr. Sachs, people's skin was much softer,with an improved texture. There were much less wrinkles observed around the upper cheek and eye area. In addition, the expert noted that the pre-cancers of all patients were gone, as well as the quality of their skin seemed to be improved. Another thing also noticed by the experts was that the skin appeared less yellow and more even toned with fewer brown spots.
Dr. Sachs and her team claimed that the cream has a good chance to become a cosmetic treatment because of its relatively low price, when compared with Botox injections and laser resurfacing, a widely available treatment for improving sun-damaged skin. The cream, which can be obtained only bu prescription, costs the NHS around £18 ($35) for a 20g tube.
Dr. Sachs said that for patients with precancerous spots, the new findings may be an added inducement to complete the treatment. She added that Efudex may be useful at treating the signs of sun damage in other patients as well. This is a remarkable finding and may lead to the development of a new treatment for reducing the appearance of wrinkles that can be performed in the home.
Actinic keratoses commonly appear as a result of a long-term sun exposure, and can lead to squamous cell carcinoma, one of the two most common types of skin cancer that affect more than 1 million individuals every year. They are easily treated and rarely result in a lethal outcome unless completely neglected.
The study is published in the journal Archives of Dermatology.