Can Laser Skin Resurfacing Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

Posted on: 29 May 2015

Have you spent a lot of time in the sun? Or worse, a tanning bed? Is your facial skin starting to show the effects of ultraviolet damage?

Laser skin resurfacing can help remove the fine lines and damage caused by too much sun. In this procedure, high-energy light from lasers actually burns away the damaged skin. Since you've spent a considerable amount of time in the sun, you may be worried about being one of the nearly 74,000 people who will be diagnosed with serious skin cancer this year, and you may be wondering if the laser treatment can also remove any cancerous cells.

The truth is that laser resurfacing may remove the beginnings of some types of skin cancers. Your dermatologist can tell you for sure what your risk is and whether you're a good candidate for the laser procedure. Here's more that you should know about laser skin resurfacing.

Removes Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis is a form of scaly skin growths that often turn into cancer. These are most commonly found on the face, ears, scalp, and other areas that receive the most sun exposure. Researchers believe that squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, may start as actinic keratosis.

Turns out that laser skin resurfacing is great at getting rid of the actinic keratoses. By removing the top layer of skin, the lasers actually burn off the pre-cancerous cells before they can develop into cancer.

Produces Better Results Than Other Procedures

A study done at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Medical Center in California looked at three types of treatments that may remove skin cancer cells: a chemical peel, a topical fluorouracil cream applied twice a day for three weeks, and a carbon dioxide laser peel. While the laser peel was rated most uncomfortable by patients, it also had a 92 percent success rate in removing actinic keratosis growths, compared to 89 percent for the chemical peel and 83 percent for the topical cream.

Has Some Side Effects

For best results, laser skin resurfacing should be done only by certified professionals, dermatologists or plastic surgeons. If you have concerns about skin cancer, consult a dermatologist for a thorough examination. Even when done correctly, laser treatments do have some side effects, including

  • A burning or itching feeling
  • Swelling
  • Bumpy or uneven skin
  • Uneven pigmentation -- parts of the skin may be discolored for many months or even permanently
  • Infection

Most of these issues clear up within days of the procedure. Listen carefully to your provider about how to care for your skin after the laser treatment. It's important to use moisturizers and sunscreen exactly as prescribed for the best results. For more information on laser skin resurfacing, talk to a professional.