Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer annually. Many skin cancers develop from precancerous lesions called actinic keratoses, and here at Torrey Pines Dermatology we perform procedures and prescribe medications that “search and destroy” these lesions before they turn into cancer. One of our most powerful preventative procedures is a fractional resurfacing laser called Active FX.
Fractional lasers work on the top 2 layers of skin, the epidermis and dermis, in effect “erasing” precancerous cells. The use of resurfacing procedures to treat skin pre-cancers (actinic keratoses) and prevent skin cancer has produced promising results — and fewer recurrences than treatment with the topical chemotherapy drugs. More recently, treatment with fractional lasers, which permit a very careful and controlled delivery of light, has also reduced the number of actinic keratoses from developing further into Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Clinical Study of Laser Resurfacing and Skin Cancer Prevention
“Basil M. Hantash, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University Medical Center, California, evaluated three alternative treatments for actinic keratoses in 24 patients with a history of lesions or of carcinoma. The participants had an average age of 73 years and were randomly assigned to undergo skin resurfacing with either a carbon dioxide laser, a chemical peel using 30 percent trichloroacetic acid or a cream with 5 percent fluorouracil, a medication used in chemotherapy, applied twice daily for three weeks. Dermatologists charted patients’ actinic keratoses on a diagram of the head at the beginning of the study and again every three months for a
period of at least 24 months. Five patients who were eligible for the study but declined treatment were used as controls. After three months, the number of actinic keratoses had decreased significantly in all three treatment groups: 83 percent in the fluorouracil group, 89 percent in the acid group and 92 percent in the laser group. None of the participants experienced adverse effects from treatment. The risk of cancer was also lower in all three treatment groups than in the control group.
At Torrey Pines Dermatology Dr. Richards highly recommends having an Active FX resurfacing procedure to eliminate the build up of years of sun damage and to lessen the possibility of developing many more skin cancers in the future. It is best performed 2-4 weeks following your skin cancer surgery and is also used to remodel scar tissue that can occur after skin cancer surgery. It is wonderful we now have such an effective tool to wipe the slate clean of past sun damage and to ensure healthier skin for a lifetime.
Kristen A. Richards, MD