SUNDAY August 17, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study by researchers from Rutgers University suggests that some moisturizing creams or moisturizers may significantly increase the risk of a type of skin cancer called Squamous cell carcinoma.
The study showed hairless mice that were pre-treated with UV radiation to induce skin damage and the received topical treatment with 100 mg of Dermabase, Dermovan, Eucerin, or Vanicream for 17 weeks were 69%, 95%, 24% and 58% respectively more likely to develop skin cancer.
The study was published Thursday in the Aug. 14, 2008 issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Some researchers doubt that moisturizers would pose such a risk in humans saying mice are not humans and results from animal studies may not always be applicable to humans.
But Allan Conney and his colleagues are no ordinary researchers. They are highly regarded and well respected in the cancer research. Their findings can’t be discounted with ease although further investigation is needed to confirm the effect of moisturizers in humans.
According to Conney, two chemicals used in the moisturizers are likely culprits for the increased risk. They are mineral oil and sodium laurel sulphate. The researchers made a custom blend cream without these ingredients and found their moisturizer was not tumorigenic in the mice.
News reports said Rutgers and Johnson & Johnson have jointly patented the custom blend moisturizer, but it is unknown whether this product would be ever commercialized.
This study draws quite some attention from the media and readers because moisturizers are so commonly used by many people believing that they would benefit their skin.
We compiled the following about the basics of skin cancer for those who want to know more about the disease.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a growth on the skin. The cancer can occur in different parts of the skin. The skin is made up of two main layers, the outer epidermis and the inner dermis. The epidermis is mostly made up of flat scale-like cells called squamous cells under which are round cells known as basal cells. The deepest part of the epidermis also contains melanocytes , the cells that produce melanin.
Depending up on the cells where the cancer develops, skin cancer can be basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The former two account for almost 90 percent of all skin cancers and they are less risky than melanoma, which is highly lethal.
What causes skin cancer?
Ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB, from the sun and tanning equipment, are believed to be the culprits for skin cancer. This may be true for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma both of which are found mainly on areas of the skin that are exposed to UV rays--the head, face, neck, hands, and arms. Other risk factors for these cancers include x-ray, arsenic and chemical carcinogens.
However, there is no consensus on the role of UV exposure in the development of melanoma. Sam Shuster, a consultant dermatologist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said that sun exposure is the major cause of the common forms of skin cancer but not melanoma.
Shuster said more than 75 percent of melanoma cases are found in areas where UV exposure is less common. In fact, people who often want to block sun exposure are at higher risk of the deadly skin cancer.
In contrast, Professor Scott Menzies, from the University of Sydney at the Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre, said melanoma occurs far more often on body sites receiving more sun exposure.
It is generally agreed, however, that sun-burns are a risk for skin cancer.
What are the symptoms of skin cancer?
The most significant sign is a change on the skin such as a new growth or a sore that does not heal quickly. Skin cancers don't look the same in terms of their shape and color and location. Skin cancer often comes without a clear-cut edge and even colors. One thing for sure is that the lesion grows nonstop.
How can a skin cancer be found early?
People need to do self-examination regularly. Pay attention particularly to melanoma. These are a common rule known as the ABCD rule, to follow to find the deadly skin cancer early.
A refers to asymmetry. The shape of one half does not match the other.
B is short for border. The border is often not clear cut. Rather edges can be ragged, notched, blurred or irregular in outline.
C means color. Color can be uneven.
D is short for diameter. Melanoma is usually larger than the eraser of a pencil or 5 millimeters.
It is important to find this type lesion early enough because it is very aggressive and more likely than other types to lead to death.
If a lesion grows nonstop for two weeks or the size becomes larger enough, the individual should see a dermatologist.
How can skin cancer be diagnosed?
A definite diagnosis can be confirmed only by a biopsy.
How is skin cancer treated?
The most common and effective way to treat skin cancer is surgery. When found early enough, the cancer can get cured 100%. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy or combined therapy may be suggested depending up the size of the cancer, the risk of scarring, age, general health and medical history.
Is there any way to prevent skin cancer?
The common advice given by many doctors and the government is to avoid exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is a known human carcinogen. However, complete avoidance of UV could lead to vitamin D deficiency which could in turn result in more dangerous types of cancers, as some cancer researchers warned. Regardless, it is safe to say that people need to avoid sun-burns.
Dietary habit may also affect the risk f skin cancer. Studies found eating greens, intake of high doses of vitamin C, broccoli sprout-extract, brown algae polyphenols, caffeine, and tea may cut skin cancer risk.