Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the entire world. And while it’s quite common, it’s also reversible when detected early. In 2018, the medical community is hopeful that more cures and improved treatments will be available.
Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people each year. Shockingly, the yearly total of new skin cancer cases is greater than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer. As a result, more people have had skin cancer over the past three decades than all other cancers combined.
The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at one point during their lifetime. The annual cost of treating skin cancer in the U.S. is somewhere around $8.1 billion.
Roughly 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The best way to prevent skin cancer is still to reduce exposure. For those who spend time on the water, resting under a shady boat top is ideal. For individuals who work outside for a living, wearing long clothing is preferable to short sleeves and shorts.
Short-Course Radiation Treatment
For years, the standard approach for patients with skin cancer has been small, daily doses of radiation over a course of many weeks. While this can be effective, it’s inconvenient and costly – especially for elderly individuals who have financial and/or mobility issues. However, according to a new study co-authored by Dr. Nicholas G. Zaorsky, a radiation oncologist and professor at Penn State College of Medicine, shorter courses of radiation are preferable to longer ones.
Specifically, Zaorsky’s study recommends short courses of five, seven, or 15 treatments for patients over the age of 70. (This stands in stark contrast to the current six-week radiation treatments patients get.)
“The takeaway is that most elderly patients, and most patients with skin cancer, can get a short course of radiation – just a few treatments – instead of coming in for radiation almost every day for six weeks, and the cosmetic result will be just as good,” Zaorsky says.
Medicinal Cream Stops Return
Getting rid of skin cancer is one thing. Unfortunately, it often returns repeatedly in high-risk patients. Thankfully, a new generic cream called 5-FU may greatly reduce the odds that it returns.
Recent research published on the use of 5-FU in veterans who have already been diagnosed with at least two basal cell carcinomas and/or squamous cell carcinomas shows that just a one-month application of the cream reduces recurrence rates of skin cancer – even after the use of the cream is stopped.
“The most remarkable thing about this study is that now we have something to use that doesn’t lose its effectiveness when you stop using it,” says Dr. Martin Weinstock, professor of dermatology at Brown University and the study’s lead author.
There are some negatives associated with 5-FU, though. Roughly 20 percent of patients suffer severe skin side effects, while more than 40 percent complain of moderate effects like redness, irritation, and mild pain. If adjustments can be made to minimize these effects, 5-FU could become a standard in the industry.
New Developments Promote Optimism
For decades, skin cancer has been a problem that doctors and researchers have had serious problems solving. And while there’s still a long way to go, 2018 is expected to be a year in which groundbreaking findings are brought to the forefront of this struggle.
As the developments highlighted in this article show, things are off to a good start.