A cancer-fighting cream applied to the skin can wipe away signs of ageing, scientists have discovered.
Fluorouracil ointment reduced potentially cancerous skin patches called actinic keratoses.
But it also appeared to reverse changes associated with the ageing effects of too much sun, including fine and deep wrinkles, dark spots, shadows and sallowness.
In its injected form the chemotherapy drug is used to treat a number of cancers including those of the pancreas, bowel, and head and neck.
A topical version of the drug was also developed specifically to treat pre-cancerous skin damage.
In the new study, 21 volunteers with actinic keratoses and sun-damaged skin applied the cream to their faces twice a day for two weeks. Skin samples were taken for analysis and photographs taken at regular intervals.
The number of actinic keratoses lesions was significantly reduced by the treatment, from an average of 11.6 per patient to just 1.5.
Clinical evaluations also identified overall improvements in participants' facial appearance.
The cream improved the skin by initially damaging it. A period of irritation and inflammation was followed by a healing response which effectively “rebuilt” the outer layers of skin on the face. Cosmetic laser treatments use a similar technique.
Reporting their findings in the journal Archives of Dermatology, the US scientists led by Dr Dana Sachs, from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, wrote: “Topical fluorouracil causes epidermal (outer skin layer) injury, which stimulates wound healing and dermal remodelling resulting in improved appearance.”
The researchers added: “Undoubtedly, there will be patients who desire a therapy such as topical fluorouracil for cosmetic purposes given the relatively low cost of this therapy compared with ablative laser resurfacing.”
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