What are Safe Medications for Skin Cancer?

 Medications for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is described as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, as a result of unrestored DNA damage that causes mutations. Usually, the skin has a normal process of regeneration of skin that involves replication of the cells in a controlled manner. These mutations cause skin cells to grow rapidly, resulting in cancerous tumours. The most common form of cancer is skin cancer, and knowing what to watch out for is crucial since almost all skin cancers can be treated if detected early.

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Types of Skin Cancer

The origin of the cancer determines the type of skin cancer a person has. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).

  1. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): BCCs appear as a pinkish patch of skin, a flesh-coloured circular growth, or a pearl-like bump. These cancers are most often seen on sun-exposed skin such as the face, neck, ears, scalp, shoulders and back. The majority of BCCs are caused by a combination of intense sun exposure. Around 80% of skin cancers form from this type of cell.

  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCCs are flat, scale-like cells that commonly appear on sun-exposed areas like ears, face, neck, and hands where the skin also shows signs of sun damage like wrinkles and age spots. The majority of SCCs are caused by long-term exposure to the UV radiation of the sun as well as from tanning beds and x-ray machines. About 20% of skin cancers develop from these cells. SCCs likelihood of spreading to other parts of the body is a 2% to 5% chance.

  3. Melanoma: Melanoma is a type of cancer that arises from melanocytes, which are skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. Melanomas look a lot like moles and may also grow from them. They can be seen on any part of the body, even those that are not normally exposed to the sun. Melanoma is often induced by sun exposure, as well as tanning beds. It is the 19th most prevalent cancer in both men and women. In 2018, approximately 300,000 new cases were reported.

  4. Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC): MCC is a skin cancer that is rare and fast-growing. They appear as solid, painless lesions or nodules on sun-exposed areas, frequently on the eyelids. It begins in the hair follicles and hormone-producing cells under the skin. Usually it is associated with the Merkel cell polyomavirus. A majority of cases involve fair-skinned individuals over 50 years of age.

Medications for Skin Cancer

Different types of doctors collaborate in cancer care to develop a patient’s overall recovery plan, which can include a variety of treatments. The size an position of the skin cancer, potential side effects, and the patient’s expectations and general wellbeing all influence treatment choices and guidelines.

  1. Surgery

During a medical procedure, the tumour and underlying tissue are surgically removed. During a surgical operation, certain skin cancers can be safely and efficiently extracted from the skin. The majority of these procedures begin with a local anaesthetic to numb the tissue. Others, such as more detailed wide excisions and sentinel lymph node biopsies, are done in a hospital operating room with an anesthesiologist. Below are examples of skin cancer surgeries and other procedures:

  • Curettage and electrodessication: A curette, a sharp, spoon-shaped device, is used to extract the skin lesion during this treatment. After that, the region is administered with an electric current, which helps to control bleeding while still killing any residual cancer cells.

  • Mohs micrographic surgery: involves the removal of the visible tumour as well as tiny fragments along the edge of the tumor's location. Until all of the cancer has been removed, each small fragment is analysed under a microscope.

  • Wide excision: This entails the removal of the tumour as well as some skin and soft tissue around it, known as a margin. The amount of tissue lost is determined by the form and size of skin cancer. When a large tumour is removed, the incision may be too large to close, so surgeons may close the wound with skin from another part of the body.

  1. Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer

The application of high-energy rays or other particles to kill cancer cells is known as radiation therapy. For skin cancer that is difficult to treat, such as on the eyelid, the tip of the nose, or the ear, radiation therapy may be used instead of surgery. It's even opted by those people who don't want to get surgical scars. Swelling, skin lesions, itchy or swollen skin, or a change of skin colour are all possible side effects of radiation therapy. However, when applying a corticosteroid or antibiotic to the skin, these side effects can normally be avoided.

  1. Medications

The use of drugs or medication to kill cancer cells is known as systemic therapy. This kind of drug is injected into the bloodstream to target cancer cells all over the body. An intravenous (IV) tubing, which is inserted into a vein with a needle, or a pill or tablet that is swallowed are two common ways to administer systemic therapies. Below are examples of systemic treatments for skin cancer:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of medications to kill cancer cells by preventing them from developing, separating, and producing new ones. These medications are normally administered to the skin every day for several weeks in the treatment of skin cancer, which is referred to as topical therapy. For the treatment of precancerous skin, topical diclofenac (Solaraze), fluorouracil (Efudex), and ingenol mebutate (Picato) are authorised. Topical imiquimod (Aldara), which activates the immune system, may be prescribed for minor basal cell cancers not seen on the face. 

  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy is a form of therapy that concentrates on the genes, proteins, or tissue environment that promote cancer growth and survival. This method of therapy stops cancer cells from growing and spreading while causing minimal disruption to healthy cells. They inhibit the PTCH1 genetic mutation, which appears to be responsible for the progression of basal cell carcinoma. In certain patients, this procedure shrinks or stabilises tumours. Hair thinning, muscle cramps, weight loss, dry skin, and loss of taste are the most common side effects of this medication.

  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy, is a form of cancer treatment that works by boosting the body's natural immunity. It improves, targets, or restores immune system activity by using products made by the body or in a laboratory. The PD-1 pathway is targeted by the immune checkpoint inhibitor cemiplimab (Libtayo). It's approved for the treatment of metastatic or locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma, as well as metastatic or locally advanced basal cell carcinoma. Another immune checkpoint inhibitor targeting PD-1 is pembrolizumab (Keytruda), used to treat Merkel cell cancer and squamous cell carcinoma, have also been approved by the FDA. Various forms of immunotherapy may have a variety of side effects. Consult your doctor on the potential side effects from the type of immunotherapy prescribed.

Prevention of Skin Cancer

UV radiation from the sun is the leading source of skin cancer. UV radiation from the  sun is harmful; it causes premature ageing and skin cancer, and it hits you even though you attempt to shield yourself from it by breaching clouds and windows, as well as reflecting off snow, water, and sand. Sun damage builds up over time as a result of extended outdoor exposure. As a result, avoiding skin cancer by taking preventive measures is crucial.

  1. Protect yourself from the sun

        UV ray protection is critical all year, not just in the summer. Even on gloomy and cold days, UV rays will hit you. Seek the shade, particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as UV rays are at their peak during this time. Avoid being sunburned. Wear protective gear, such as a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Every day, apply a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for prolonged outdoor exercise. 30 minutes before walking outdoors, apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your whole body. During swimming or heavy sweating, reapply every two hours.

  1. Indoor tanning should be avoided

       Avoid using UV tanning beds. Indoor tanning (darkening the skin with a tanning bed, booth, sunbed, or sunlamp) exposes people to elevated levels of UV rays. Overexposure to UV rays can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, and eye cancer over time. Any alteration in skin tone as a result of UV exposure (whether a tan or a burn) indicates disease rather than wellbeing. Per year, over 3,000 patients are sent to the emergency department as a result of indoor tanning injuries and burns.

In many cases, you can take precautions to lower the chances of getting skin cancer. Limiting your time in the sun, wearing sunscreen, avoiding tanning beds, and having daily skin cancer scans are the most effective ways to reduce skin cancer.


  1. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/

  2. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common

  3. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/skin-cancer-non-melanoma/introduction

  4. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/skin-cancer-image-gallery.html?filter=Basal%20Cell%20Carcinoma,Kaposi%20Sarcoma,Melanoma,Merkel%20Cell%20Carcinoma,Skin%20Lymphoma,Squamous%20Cell%20Carcinoma

  5. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/skin-cancer/

  6. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/

  7. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm


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