HealthDay News — Fluorouracil application can reduce the risk of surgery for squamous cell carcinoma for 1 year among patients with a history of keratinocyte carcinomas, according to a study published online in JAMA Dermatology.

Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD, from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence, RI, and colleagues randomized 932 veterans with a history of at least 2 keratinocyte carcinomas in the past 5 years to applications of fluorouracil, 5% (468 patients), or vehicle control cream (464 patients) to the face and ears twice daily for 2 to 4 weeks.

The researchers found that over 4 years, 299 patients developed a basal cell carcinoma end point and 108 developed a squamous cell carcinoma end point. There was no difference between the treatment groups in the time to first keratinocyte, basal cell, or squamous cell carcinoma over the entire study.

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During the first year, 1% and 4% of patients in the fluorouracil and control groups developed a squamous cell carcinoma, respectively (75% risk reduction; 95% CI, 35% to 91%; P =.002). The 11% reduction in basal cell carcinoma risk during the first year in the fluorouracil group was not significant, and there was not a significant effect on keratinocyte carcinoma risk.

“A conventional course of fluorouracil to the face and ears substantially reduces surgery for squamous cell carcinoma 1 one year,” the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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Weinstock MA, Thwin SS, Siegel JA, et al. Chemoprevention of basal and squamous cell carcinoma with a single course of fluorouracil, 5%, cream: a randomized clinical trial [published online January 3, 2018]. JAMA Dermatol. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3631