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Skin Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Prevention - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Description of the Evidence


Chemopreventive agents

Beta carotene

In the Physicians' Health Study, 21,884 male physicians with no reported history of BCC or SCC were randomly assigned to take 50 mg doses of daily oral beta carotene versus placebo in a 2 × 2 factorial trial of beta carotene and aspirin.[18] Incidence of NMSCs was a secondary endpoint in the trial. After 12 years of beta carotene or placebo administration, there was no difference in incidence of either BCC or SCC. RCTs of long-term treatment with beta carotene in individuals previously treated for NMSC also showed no benefit in preventing the occurrence of new NMSCs.[16,19]


High-dose isotretinoin was found to prevent new skin cancers in individuals with xeroderma pigmentosum.[20] However, a RCT of long-term treatment with isotretinoin in individuals previously treated for BCC showed that this agent did not prevent the occurrence of new BCCs but did produce side effects characteristic of isotretinoin treatment.[21,22]


A multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 1,312 patients with a history of BCC or SCC and a mean follow-up of 6.4 years showed that 200 µg of selenium (in brewer's yeast tablets) did not have a statistically significant effect on the primary endpoint of BCC development and may increase the risk of SCC and total NMSC.[23,24] The cumulative incidence of NMSC was 0.20 versus 0.16 per person year of follow-up in the selenium and placebo groups, respectively (unadjusted relative risk = 1.27; 95% CI, 1.11–1.45).


The use of celecoxib as a chemopreventive agent for actinic keratosis was assessed in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Two hundred forty high-risk men and women (each with 10–40 actinic keratoses and a history of previous skin cancer) received 200 mg doses of celecoxib twice daily or a placebo for 9 months with an additional 2-month follow-up. No difference was found in the incidence of actinic keratosis, but a post hoc analysis revealed a statistically significant difference in the mean number of NMSCs per patient (rate ratio, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.24–0.75; absolute difference, 0.2 lesions per patient). The ultimate utility of celecoxib in preventing NMSCs remains unclear, given the exploratory nature of the analysis, the challenge of interpreting benefits in fractions of lesions, and the potential for serious adverse cardiovascular effects associated with long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, the unexpected finding of the lack of effect of celecoxib on actinic keratosis but apparent effect on SCC and BCC incidence raises questions about the use of actinic keratosis as an intermediate endpoint for SCC and BCC and the current understanding of the natural history of NMSCs.[25]

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