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Cancer cream banishes wrinkles

A CREAM used to treat the early signs of skin cancer may erase wrinkles and leave behind younger-looking skin, researchers in the United States said yesterday.

They said Valeant Pharmaceuticals' cream Efudex, which is used to treat actinic keratoses, a precancerous form of squamous cell carcinoma, improved the appearance of skin, smoothing out rough spots and wrinkles, improving skin color and erasing brown spots.

The cream appears to be causing a wound healing response that leads to an increase in collagen production, which is improving the appearance of wrinkles.

"The drug has been around for many years," said Dr Dana Sachs of the University of Michigan, whose study appears in the Archives of Dermatology.

Sachs said it has been used for four decades to treat actinic keratoses, which appear as a scaly or crusty bump on the skin. They most commonly appear on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, forearms or lips.

Treatment with Efudex is not trouble-free. Soon after the cream is applied, the skin becomes red and inflamed.

"Patients look really bad," Sachs said. "Their skin is red. I've heard people describe it as looking like raw hamburger meat."

But after treatment, patients say their skin looks younger. "Not only are their pre-cancers gone but the quality of their skin seems to be improved," Sachs said.

Sachs and colleagues studied 21 people aged 56 to 85 with actinic keratoses and sun damage who used the cream over a six-month period.

"People's skin was much softer," Sachs said. "The texture was improved. There are fewer wrinkles around the upper cheek and eyes."


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