Sunday 06 December 2009, 19:17

Advances in the prevention of skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancers: new trends in prevention and treatment

Advances in the prevention of skin cancer

Research on non-melanoma skin cancers is yielding encouraging results in the prevention and treatment of these types of cancer. The most advanced research on the causes of non-melanoma skin cancers has helped demonstrate that most of the skin cancers are preventable.


For example, the finding that most of basal and squamous skin cancers are caused by solar radiation indicates that their occurrence is preventable simply by protecting skin from excessive sun exposure. Similarly the finding that some genital skin cancers are related to infection with certain types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) has led to the development of new vaccines protecting against HPV infection, intended to reduce the risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.


Another area of active research is cancer chemoprevention, based on the use of specific natural or synthetic substances capable of preventing, reversing or suppressing carcinogenic progression to invasive cancer. Although the mechanisms of action of current chemopreventive agents has not been yet understood, a common classification system divides these agents into "blocking agents", which prevent cancer-promoting compounds from reaching or reacting with critical target sites in tissues, and "suppressing agents", which prevent the progression of carcinogenetic process in cells already altered by carcinogenic stimuli.


Currently, numerous chemopreventive agents are under investigation, including retinoids, eflornithine and certain antioxidants, such as green tea extracts. But since their effects have still to be fully elucidated (especially long-term effects), their use is not widely spread.


Finally, in the field of skin cancer treatment, studies are now under way to improve the effectiveness of new forms of non-surgical treatment such as photodynamic therapy, imiquimod cream, immune response modulators, and laser surgery. Compared to surgical procedures, these new forms of cancer treatment may offer the same effectiveness, but produce fewer scars and other possible side effects.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Cancer

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