Considering a skin-smoothing peel or laser resurfacing? You’re not vain; you’re cancer-proofing your skin. These anti-aging treatments actually help clear up precancerous lesions called actinic keratoses — scaly or crusty spots caused by too much sun exposure. Adults over 40 have an average of eight of these blemishes, some of which may turn into squamous cell carcinoma.
In a study at Stanford University, researchers gave 24 patients with the spots a five-percent fluorouracil at-home cream, a chemical peel, or laser skin resurfacing. All three worked equally well to remove the precancerous lesions, getting rid of about 90 percent of them. The acid peel was the most popular because it was fast, caused little discomfort, and healed quickly. "It may be the easiest route, in terms of cancer prevention," says lead author Basil M. Hantash, MD, PhD, a dermatologist.
However, doctors — and insurance companies — favor the cream because it costs much less, between $100 and $200. A chemical peel runs $500 to $1,000; a laser treatment, $3,000 to $5,000 — and because these are primarily cosmetic treatments, they’re not usually covered by insurance. Check with your health insurance provider before you schedule a treatment.
Originally published in MORE magazine, February 2007.