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Laser surgery may cut skin cancer recurrence in half


Image credit – National Cancer Institute

CANCER DIGEST – Jan. 27, 2023 – Laser treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer my reduce recurrence of such cancer by half, according to a new study by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital.


The study of hospital records of patients with a history of facial basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers treated between 2005 and 2021 showed that 20.9 percent of 43 patients treated with non-ablative laser fractional lasers (NAFL) had a recurrent cancer compared to 40.4 percent of similar patients who had not received the laser treatment.


The study findings appear in the Dec. 6, 2022 journal Dermatologic Surgery.


Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the US according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures 2023. Collectively they are called keratinocyte carcinomas.


While rarely fatal, treatment usually involves a surgical procedure that removes the tumor without damaging the underlying layers of healthy skin cells. Such patients, however, have a 35 percent risk of experiencing a recurrence within 3 years and a 50 percent recurrence risk within 5 years.


Laser surgery, although not yet FDA-approved for skin cancer, is sometimes used for superficial tumors when other techniques have been unsuccessful. Nonablative lasers convert the beam of light to heat, which kills the tumor without injuring the skin surface.


“These findings suggest that NAFL treatment may have an important role in protecting against subsequent keratinocyte carcinomas,” says senior author of the study Matthew Avram, MD, JD, in a press release. He is director of the Mass General Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center. “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.”


Avram noted that this study shows that additional study of this laser technique is called for to more rigorously assess the value of laser treatment for these types of non-melanoma cancers.

Sources: Massachusetts General Hospital press release, and Dermatologic Surgery

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