Cervical acid peels may sound like something you get done at the salon, but scientists claim they could prevent cancer.
Many beauty fans already know the benefits of a facial peel, which targets problems like acne and aging, by separating outer layers of skin. A similar treatment used in the cervix has now been found to rid the area of precancerous cells, caused by HPV (human papilloma virus).
Scientists from Austria’s Comprehensive Cancer Center have trialled a chemical peel they developed, which uses 85 per cent trichloroacetic acid on the cervix in women with HPV. Trichloroacetic acid is what is commonly found in beauty chemical peels.
The team found 82 per cent of the patients using the peel went into complete remission.
“The results are extremely promising, since the procedure can be performed very easily by experts in the field of HPV-induced mutations of the cervix,” lead study author Dr Paul Speiser said.
“Very little training is needed to perform the procedure, it does not require any special equipment or other operating theatre infrastructure and the acid itself is very inexpensive. This means that we now have a real alternative for treating this condition and one that would also be very attractive to poorer countries.”
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About 14 million people become newly infected each year with HPV, and it’s so common that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculate that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. In women it can lead to a pre-cancerous condition, and ultimately cervical cancer.
The precancerous cells are detected during a smear test, and can be removed from a surgical procedure called cervical conization. Freezing via liquid nitrogen, heating with an electrical generator and lasers are also ways to remove them.
However the new treatment is much less painful, using a gentle acid peel that is dabbed on to the affected area. Few side effects have been found, and other than mild discomfort, patients only reported a mild discharge that lasted for roughly two weeks.
While the news is promising, Dr Speiser adds more research needs to be done.
“We are going to conduct another study to investigate whether the success of the treatment can be increased by a second application,” he said. “Preliminary data suggest that a second treatment could increase the success rate to more than 90 per cent.”
The results have been published in journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
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