Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chemotherapy Skin Cream Improves Sun-Damaged and Wrinkled Skin

lotion on fingertip


The battle against aging and its tell-tale signs is universal, as there is just no escape from this natural human progression. The fight actually begins in a person’s early twenties, although visible signs may not become apparent for years. External aging occurs due to environmental factors including exposure to the rays of the sun. Together, natural aging and sun exposure can ravage the appearance of the skin.
From the application of sunscreen to the use of moisturizing soaps and creams to medical cosmetic procedures, the struggle to reduce the appearance of damaged and aging skin is an ongoing effort by more than a few of us. The newest form of treatment has recently been discovered by researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School. With the topical application of the chemotherapy drug fluorouracil, a significant improvement in the appearance of wrinkles and sun-damaged areas, as well a reduction of potentially precancerous patches, may be achieved.
Used in the treatment of colon, head and neck, pancreas, and other types of cancers, fluorouracil has contributed to noticeable changes in the skin appearance of patients who have received the drug. This prompted the development of a skin cream that containing fluorouracil in hopes of reducing the appearance of unsightly blotches and spots, and preventing the possible development of skin cancer.
To test the new skin cream, Dr. Dana L. Sachs and colleagues conducted a study of 21 healthy volunteers, ages 56 to 85, whose faces had sun-damaged skin and/or potentially cancerous skin lesions known as actinic keratoses. The participants applied the cream containing 5% fluorouracil to their faces twice daily for a two-week period. The results revealed that the average number of actinic keratoses was reduced from 11.6 lesions to 1.5 lesions per person. In addition, improvements were also noted in damage related to aging such as the reduction of wrinkles and liver spots.
Although the skin cream was generally well tolerated, most of the participants found the treatment at least moderately uncomfortable and one person developed severe skin inflammation and had to stop using the skin cream. The cream caused the skin to become red and irritated, making it peel as it worked to eliminate unhealthy skin. In the weeks following, the skin of the participants recovered with softer wrinkles and better texture. Fluorouracil works to reduce the signs of sun damage by increasing the levels of a precursor to collagen, which rebuilds damaged skin.
The twenty remaining participants completed a questionnaire in week ten of the study in which 40 percent reported sun damage to be much improved while 35 percent saw moderate improvement. For wrinkles, 42 percent experienced mild improvement, with 26 percent noting moderate improvement, and 16 percent had much improvement. All of the participants had at least a mild improvement in their skin texture, and overall, 75 percent said they were either moderately and very satisfied with the results.
The majority of the volunteers said they would opt to undergo the treatment again, with 17 out of 19 of them even acknowledging that they would be willing to pay for it. According to the researchers,  the skin cream would be less costly than laser skin resurfacing, however, use of the cream may not achieve the same degree of improvement.
The participants were followed for almost six months, during which time they received skin biopsies and dermatology checkups on a regular basis. In addtion, close-up facial photographs were taken of each participant.
In their report, the researchers wrote, “For patients in whom a course of topical fluorouracil is indicated for the treatment of actinic keratoses, there will likely be the additional benefit of a restorative effect from sun damage.” They concluded, “It is possible that for some patients topical fluorouracil may have an important role against photo-aging…. Undoubtedly, there will be patients who desire a therapy such as topical fluorouracil for cosmetic purposes given the relatively low cost of this therapy compared with ablative laser resurfacing.”


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