Question: My dermatologist gave me a topical cream with special ingredients to prevent skin cancer where he thought it might be forming. How is that even possible?
Answer: It is now possible and FDA-approved. There are some new topical medications that target different mechanisms to halt cancer cells from growing.
5-fluorouracil (5-FU): This long-standing chemotherapy drug has been used internally and is also now FDA-approved for use on top of the skin to prevent and treat superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). It is the active ingredient in proprietary topical skin cancer prevention formularies and several prescription creams with 5-FU or related medications available by prescription.
When applied on the skin topically, 5-FU selectively targets and destroys only cancerous or precancerous skin cells damaged by sun and aging while leaving normal skin cells alone. It’s something you can use at home, under a doctor’s supervision, on many parts of the body such as chest, neck, hands, legs and back.
A course of treatment usually lasts approximately 14 days. After several days of initial application, the appearance of redness, scaling, and eventually crusting occurs on treated areas and indicates that precancerous cells are dying; how soon they appear and their severity depends on the strength of the 5-FU product and how often it is applied. The end result is a healthier looking, more attractive skin with a reduced tendency to develop skin cancer.
Imiquimod: This cream is FDA-approved to treat superficial BCC’s that works by stimulating the immune system and causing the body to produce interferon, a chemical that attacks cancerous cells. The cream is rubbed in the the lesion 5 times a week for 6-8 weeks (sometimes longer). This treatment can also produce some discomfort, redness, irritation and inflammation.
Cure rates for both are 80-90 percent because they kill active cancerous or precancerous cells over time instead of all-at-once.
Never self-diagnose or try to use these medications without a doctor’s supervision, as in the rare case a BCC is locally advanced or metastasizes (spreads), the cancer can become dangerous, even life-threatening.
Have you tried 5-FU or any of the topical skin cancer prevention treatments?