Can chemical peels reduce skin cancer?

Can chemical peels reduce skin cancer?


by Erica Heartquist

Bio | Email | Follow: @EricaHeartquist

Posted on April 29, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Updated Friday, May 7 at 12:13 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Many people head to the spa for skin treatments like chemical peels to enhance their beauty, destress, or for other so-called "cosmetic" purposes. But now science points to other healthful benefits, which include cancer prevention.

Chemical peels can prevent precancerous legions or "sun spots" from growing on the skin, according to skin specialists that spoke with KGW.

Barb Crabbe, a veterinarian who specializes in equine health, spends each and every day outside. Crabbe grew up in southern California and recalls the time she spent working on her tan as a younger woman.

"I spent my whole life lying in the sun with lemon juice and almond oil," she said.

But after her parents were both treated for skin cancer, and subsequently finding sun spots on her own face, Crabbe decided to contact a doctor.

Crabbe watched both her parents go through treatment for skin cancer, and after she started seeing sun spots on her own face, she contacted her doctor.

Her doctor recommended a trichloroacetic peel, also known as a TCA peel, which is just one kind of chemical peel available to deter or prevent sun spots.

Crabbe said that after the treatment, she no longer looked in the mirror and worried whether a sun spot may become something worse.

"I now no longer look at my face and think, 'That's going to be something horrible.' Now they're all gone," she said, pointing to the places where she once had sun spots.

Dayna Brown recently had a TCA peel treatment at the Oswego Spa and Laser Center in Lake Oswego.

The treatment removes surface skin and allows newer, healthier skin to replace it. After about a weeklong healing period, Brown was expected to look as much as 10 years younger, and with much healthier skin, said Monica Martin, an esthetician trained in TCA peels who works at Oswego Spa and Laser.

Dr. Lee Robinson, a licensed facial plastic surgeon, said the TCA peel recovery period was similar to that of a sunburn.

"Eventually it peels; it's very similar to a sunburn, but without the skin damage that a sunburn causes," he added.

Dr. Robinson said the TCA peel can actually remove precancerous sun spots.

"There have been studies, several years ago, showing that people who do get those peels have less risk of skin cancer," Robinson said. "They may be actually preventing further problems down the road by getting a peel or two or periodic peels in their forties or fifties."

Crabbe said she planned on having the TCA peel treatment on her hands and forearms. She said the chemical treatments had changed the way she viewed skincare in relation to sun exposure.

"I don't really want to have a peel every two years or three years so every morning now, I get up and I smear sunscreen all over myself," she said with a laugh. "I wear a hat. So, it's definitely changed me, you know? I'm a lot more careful of how I take care of my skin."

TCA peel treatments begin at about $225 at Oswego Spa and Laser.