It’s been around for almost half a century, but it’s the new anti-aging cream on the block. Fluorouracil, which was originally used as an intravenous chemotherapy drug, has evolved into a topical treatment for precancerous actinic keratosis lesions. But as researchers have recently found, its potential isn’t limited to cancer care.
In a University of Michigan Medical School study, patients with actinic keratoses applied a 5% fluorouracil cream, also known by brand names Efudex and Fluoroplex, to their faces twice a day for two weeks. Not only did this treatment reduce the average number of lesions from more than 11 to less than two, but it also followed “a wound-healing pattern of events reminiscent of that seen with laser treatment of photo-aging,” according to the Archives of Dermatology report. The results included a decrease in fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (such as age spots), and sallowness.
“For patients in whom a course of topical fluorouracil is indicated for the treatment of actinic keratoses, there will likely be the additional benefit of a restorative effect from sun damage,” the researchers wrote. “Undoubtedly, there will be patients who desire a therapy such as topical fluorouracil for cosmetic purposes given the relatively low cost of this therapy compared with ablative laser resurfacing.”
Fluorouracil, which works by disrupting a DNA-replicating enzyme, is not currently FDA-approved for cosmetic use. However, that could change in the relatively near future if additional research, trials and doctor-prescribed off-label use prove its benefits are greater than the possible side effects.