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Skin cream use OK’d during radiation therapy

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Posted October 25, 2018

Contrary to the advice most cancer patients receive when they go through radiation treatment, topical skin treatments, unless applied very heavily, do not increase the radiation dose to the skin and can be used in moderation before daily radiation treatments.

A new study from the Perelman School of Medicine found that while 91 percent of clinicians surveyed said they advised patients to avoid these skin treatments, and 83 percent of patients surveyed said they’d received this guidance from their doctors, testing showed there was no difference in the radiation skin dose with or without these creams. They published their findings in JAMA Oncology.

Skin cream. Image credit: chezbeate via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Skin cream. Image credit: chezbeate via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

“This recommendation is a holdover from the early days of radiation therapy, but with the use of modern radiation treatments that can reduce dose to the skin, we hypothesized that it may no longer be relevant,” says the study’s lead author Brian C. Baumann, an adjunct assistant professor of radiation oncology.

Nearly two-thirds of all cancer patients in the United States will undergo radiation therapy as part of their treatment, and as many as 90 percent of those patients will experience radiation dermatitis—a rash or burn on the skin. Both prescription and over-the-counter topical treatments are commonly used to give patients relief, some of which—such as silver sulfadiazine cream—contain heavy metals. However, patients have historically been advised to avoid using these treatments in the hours before radiation therapy to avoid increasing the amount of radiation absorbed by the skin.

“Based on the results of this study, the use of topical agents just before radiation therapy can be safely liberalized, which may improve quality of life for patients undergoing radiation therapy, but very thick applications of topical agents just before radiation therapy should still be avoided,” Baumann says.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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