SKIN cancer is one of the most common types of cancer across the globe.
But now doctors claim that a “wonder” cream – available on the NHS – could reverse sun damage and stop cancer developing in the first place.
Getty – Contributor Experts say a ‘wonder’ cream available on the NHS could reverse skin damage and stop cancer in its tracks
Experts say the cream is based on a principle known as daylight photodynamic therapy (daylight PDT).
The cream contains aminolevulinic acid (ALA), which helps the body’s immune system kill the pre-cancerous cells.
Patients only need to apply the light-activated lotion once then sit in the sun for two hours, within 30 minutes of application – even if it’s overcast.
It’s so easy to use that some people have been able to carry out the treatment at home.
Unlike other treatments, it’s only known side-effects are tingling for a few days and some crusting, which experts say clears within a fortnight.Targets damaged cells
Dr Justine Hextall, who sits on the skin cancer committee at the British Association of Dermatologists, told the Daily Mail: “ALA gets absorbed preferentially by the sun‑damaged cells you want to target — and does no harm to healthy skin.”
The cream is used to treat actinic keratoses – innocuous-looking rough patches or raised brown growths, which are sometimes referred to as sun or liver spots.
They are very common and usually a sign of underlying sun damage, as there may be other pre-cancerous changes in the area that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
We could save the NHS a lot of time and money if we stepped in sooner, especially in the case of frequent flyersDr Justine HextallBritish Association of Dermatologists
A 2014 study in the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology suggested that 63 per cent of cases of squamous cell carcinomas – a form of non-melanoma skin cancer – arose from a flat, early actinic keratosis.
But Dr Hextall said that these are the ones doctors tend not to treat, and generally suggest only treating raised ones.
Symptoms of skin cancerIn the UK, around 13,300 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.
It’s a disease which involves the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, and it can occur when damage is caused to the skin cells.
This damage can triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.
Macmillan’s ABCDE list helps you know what to look for:
A – Asymmetrical moles – irregular in shape
B – Border of a mole – blurred or has jagged edges
C – Colour of a mole – if a mole has more than one colour
D – Diameter (width) – irregular moles are usually larger than 7mm
E – Evolving – melanoma moles often change (evolve)
Sunburn doesn’t cause skin cancer but it increases your chances of developing the disease.
etting sunburnt just five times can increase your chance of contracting skin cancer by 80 per cent.
Cancer Research UK says: “Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.
“In the UK almost 9 in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding using sunbeds.”
Figures show that the chances of an actinic keratosis turning into a squamous cell carcinoma is around five per cent, so treating the pre-cancerous condition could save thousands of people from developing cancer every year.
Dr Hextall added: “As clinicians we under-utilise the treatments for field change — signs of widespread sun damage — such as little red marks, areas of more pigmentation, age spots and little warty growths.
“We could save the NHS a lot of time and money if we stepped in sooner, especially in the case of frequent flyers — people who turn up with a couple of lesions but also widespread sun damage.”
Treated at home
A recent study in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology analysed 50 patients with actinic keratoses who were given daylight PDT to use at home.
Their findings showed that after three months 62 per cent were clear of all visible lesions, while 98 per cent said they had found it easy to use.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Bav Shergill, a spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists, told the Mail: “Daylight PDT clears about 70 per cent or more of pre-cancerous cells, and if it was cheaper it would be used more widely.”
While daylight PDT, which costs £150 per tube, is available on the NHS, it’s typically reserved for people who have multiple acitinic keratoses and haven’t responded to any other treatments.
Daylight PDT clears about 70 per cent or more of pre-cancerous cells, and if it was cheaper it would be used more widelyDr Bav ShergillConsultant Dermatologist
There are other creams available, but some need to be applied daily for weeks and can have some unpleasant side-effects, such as disfiguring and scarring.
The main treatment for acitinic keratoses, however, is to freeze them off with liquid nitrogen – or scrape them off, which is cheaper.
But experts warn that this method can have a lower clearance rate and therefore lead to more follow ups, whilst also missing any other “invisible” background damage.
RED ALERT Common myths are putting 1 in 5 Brits at risk of skin cancer, experts warn SPOT IT Woman’s tiny mole turns into deadly skin cancer despite always using sunscream BAD BLOOD ‘Harmful’ chemicals in sunscreen seep through skin and into your bloodstream SICK BED Lump on sunbed addict’s lip turned out to be skin cancer – leaving her deformed SKIN DAMAGE You should NEVER peel sunburnt skin, skin doctor warns WarningPIMPLE SHOCKER Married At First Sight star reveals tiny pimple on her nose was skin cancer EASE THE BURN Soothe sunburn with 10 remedies – from teabags to yoghurt WEEKEND WARNING Sunburn once every 2 years ‘triples deadly skin cancer risk’ ‘SNAP DECISIONS’ Anger as skin cancer diagnosis to be made from photos taken on doc’s phone SK-IN DANGER UV photos show moisturisers with SPF could put you ‘at risk of skin cancer’ ExclusiveHOLE IN THE HEAD Mum-of-three left with gaping ‘crater’ on scalp after skin cancer battle
Currently, doctors advise patients with “early” actinic keratosis, which is small, flat and alone, to keep an eye on it.
Some may clear up on their own, but if it becomes painful or inflamed it could be a sign that it is developing into a squamous cell carcinoma.
If you’re worried or have concerns about any unusual lumps and bumps, always see a GP.
Lump on sunbed addict’s lip turned out to be sign of skin cancer – but op left her with deformed pout
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 782 4368 . You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.