Newly released research posted on Science Daily revealed that skin laser treatment may help to prevent the development of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are collectively identified as keratinocyte carcinoma, and are the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, a founding member of Mass General Brigham. Published in Dermatologic Surgery, the research revealed an easy-to-implement strategy to protect skin health.
Nonablative fractional lasers (NAFL) deliver heat in a fractional manner that leaves it fully intact after treatment (unlike ablative fractional lasers that remove the top layer of skin), and they're currently used to treat scars, sun-damaged skin, age spots, and more. However, NAFL's effectiveness for preventing skin damage is unknown.
To investigate further, Mathew Avram, MD, JD, Director of the Mass General Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center, and his colleagues studied patients who had been successfully treated for facial keratinocyte carcinoma in the past. The referenced patients have a 35% risk of experiencing a subsequent keratinocyte carcinoma within three years and a 50% risk within five years.
In the study, 43 patients received NAFL therapy and 52 served as controls and did not receive NAFL therapy. The rate of subsequent facial keratinocyte carcinoma development over an average follow-up of more than six years was 20.9% in NAFL-treated patients and 40.4% in controls, indicating that patients treated with NAFL had about half the risk.
When controlling for age, gender, and skin type, control patients were 2.65-times more likely to develop a new facial keratinocyte carcinoma than NAFL-treated patients. Among patients who developed a facial keratinocyte carcinoma, the time to development was significantly longer in patients treated with NAFL compared with untreated patients.
"While the mechanism of NAFL's protective effect is not completely understood, it is suspected that NAFL treatment reduces the overall burden of photo damaged keratinocytes and may promote a wound healing response, which gives healthy skin cells a selective advantage," said Dr. Avram.
Avram also noted that additional studies are warranted to more critically assess the role of NAFL in skin cancer prevention, to reveal the duration of its protective effects, and to determine optimal treatment parameters.