The last few months have done no favors for skin-protection advocates.
First, there was the 27-year-old mother whose selfies taken right after skin-cancer treatment went viral.
Industry experts worry that the graphic images of the woman’s scabbed and scarred face will discourage folks from seeking treatment for otherwise-curable skin lesions.
Then, we get news from the Environmental Working Group that its analysis of some 1,700 sunscreens and sun protection products found that 80 percent contain hazardous chemicals, or provide inadequate protection against ultraviolet radiation — or both.
It’s enough to make one question the advisability of ever venturing outdoors during the daytime.
Thankfully, there is some positive medical news to report: the Lynn Cancer Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital has become the first facility in Florida (and one of just a handful nationwide) to offer skin-cancer sufferers treatment via the FDA-approved Esteya — a noninvasive “brachytherapy” system.
In the Esteya brachytherapy protocol, concentrated high-dose-rate radiation is delivered via a small electronic beam — which is purported to be far less damaging to the skin and surrounding tissue than the traditional radioactive isotope delivery system of conventional radiation.
“Brachytherapy has been around for awhile but most people aren’t familiar with it,” said Dr. Michael Kasper, a radiation oncologist with the Lynn Cancer Institute. “It is a highly targeted form of radiotherapy that treats the cancerous tumor ‘from the inside out' — as opposed to traditional radiation the covers an entire area.”
Kasper notes that less than half of the some 2,000 radiation facilities in the U.S. offer brachytherapy.
The Esteya system is designed to treat those who have been diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas — the most common forms of skin cancer.
“Esteya gives patients a noninvasive option for dealing with skin-cancer lesions in their early stages,” Kasper said.
Ideally, this means lesions that are 2 centimeters or smaller.
Kasper said potential benefits for patients include:
▪ Decreased treatment duration: “Rather than undergoing five to seven weeks of daily radiation sessions that can last 30 minutes, Esteya patients can be treated in a week or two, with six to eight sessions that last a minute or two.”
▪ Fewer side effects: “Because there’s no radioactive source, shielding requirements are minimal — as is any damage to healthy tissue.”
▪ Ability to treat delicate areas: “This includes body parts such as the ear lobes, eyelids and lips.”
▪ No surgery required.
▪ Little to no post-treatment scarring.
▪ Rapid healing.
While basal and/or squamous cell carcinomas are not fatal cancers, Kasper said such growths — no matter how small — should never be ignored.
“These kinds of lesions tend to grow and, if left untreated, often ooze. They became open ‘wounds’ that need daily care,” he said.
One thing Kasper stressed, though, is that Esteya is not designed to treat melanoma, the most serious — and often deadly — form of skin cancer.
Currently, Kasper and his Lynn colleagues are conducting clinical trials with the Esteya system.
He believes that as Esteya’s efficacy becomes more widely known, so too will its availability.
“We’re very excited about the potential this system offers.”