The researchers found that in patients with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, non-ablative fractional laser treatment reduced the odds of the cancer recurrence by about half.
“Actually, we don’t know why this procedure has this result,” said senior investigator Dr. Mathew Avram, director of the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“We have to go to the lab and try to figure out why this is the case. There are theories about whether or not the treatment causes changes in immune function and skin, but we don’t have evidence for that,” he said.
“Fractional lasers treat a fraction of the skin and leave most of the skin untreated,” Avram said. “But even though we’re only treating one part of the skin, all skin benefits from it.”
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common type of skin cancer and are usually curable when caught early.
For the study, Avram’s team reviewed the records of patients with basal cell or squamous cell cancer. These patients typically have a 35% risk of developing a new cancer within three years and a 50% risk of recurrence within five years.
Forty-three patients subsequently received laser treatment, while 52 did not.
Among patients treated with lasers, 21% developed new squamous or basal cell facial cancers over a six-year follow-up. Among untreated patients, 40% experienced new cancers, the researchers found.
After adjusting for age, gender and skin type, untreated patients were nearly three times more likely to develop new cancers than laser-treated patients.
Among treated patients who developed skin cancer again, recurrence took longer than among untreated patients, the researchers noted.
Despite these findings, Avram advises against having this laser treatment in hopes of preventing skin cancer or skin cancer recurrence.
“While I am not advocating that all patients should receive a fractional laser treatment, if you are considering a cosmetic treatment, it is good to know that in addition to the cosmetic benefits, you will actually benefit from what looks like a decrease in the incidence of two most common forms of skin cancer,” he said.
The most important thing to do is check your own skin for new growths and consult a board-certified dermatologist to examine you even more carefully for precancerous spots or skin cancer, Avram said.
“Also, use sunscreen, avoid the sun, wear hats, all that protective behavior, those things don’t change, and I don’t recommend doing anything beyond that. I wouldn’t recommend the public go out and have that procedure. The procedure is expensive. There are downtime. There’s no need to do it,” he said.
The report was recently published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery.
doctor Richard Carvajal directs medical oncology at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success, NY “Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are by far the most commonly diagnosed cancers, with more than 5 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year “, said.
Although the risk of death from these cancers is low, the cost and effects on patients’ quality of life are significant, and strategies are needed to prevent or reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, Carvajal said.
“The use of a laser therapy called non-ablative fractional laser treatment may be one way to achieve this goal,” he said. “These results, while certainly intriguing, require confirmation in further studies.”
To learn more about skin cancer, check out the Skin Cancer Foundation.
SOURCES: Mathew Avram, MD, director, Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Richard Carvajal, MD, deputy chief physician, director of medical oncology, Northwell Health Cancer Institute, Lake Success, NY; Dermatologic SurgeryDecember 6, 2022