A new Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for non-cancerous skin growths, ESKATA, could be a game changer.
Seborrheic keratoses (SKs) — raised growths that look a bit like irregular, waxy moles or warts — affect as many as 83 million Americans, according to one 2015 study. That would make it more common than acne, rosacea and psoriasis…combined.
For something so common, we don’t really know what causes the growths that can appear on the face, neck, back, chest, and stomach, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Studies suggest sun exposure may be part of the equation — yet another reason to wear your sunscreen — but SKs can also run in families and tend to increase as you get older.
While dermatologists’ offices and drugstore shelves are overflowing with acne, psoriasis, and rosacea remedies, seborrheic keratosis — which don’t necessarily require treatment but are typically treated for cosmetic reasons — have remained more under the radar, as traditional treatment options sound a little like medieval medicine.
“Traditionally, [seborrheic keratoses] are removed using one of several methods, including freezing (cryotherapy), burning with an electric current (electrodessication), scraping off with a special tool (curettage) — which may be combined with electrodessication — lasering, or they can also be cut out,” Sejal Shah, a dermatologist based in New York City, tells Allure.
Now, there is a topical treatment that’s gotten the FDA’s stamp of approval for treating the growths. ESKATA, a hydrogen peroxide-based topical solution, was developed by dermatologist-led biopharmaceutical company Aclaris Therapeutics. This isn’t like your over-the-counter acne cream. According to the official press release from Aclaris, the high-concentration peroxide treatment is applied by a derm using a “pen-like” applicator in their office.
In the rigorous trials required to get the FDA’s endorsement, ESKATA was shown to be more likely to clear up seborrheic keratoses sans freezing, burning, or cutting after just two treatments, which were administered three weeks apart. “Patients treated with ESKATA were more likely to have all four treated SKs completely cleared after two treatments than patients who received placebo,” according to the release.
Of course, as with any topical treatment, ESKATA does have the potential for side effects. “The most common adverse effects are skin reactions related to application — for example, irritation or redness,” says Shah, who does not have clinical experience with the treatment, but has seen its trial data. “Less commonly, these reactions could be severe and lead to more permanent skin changes, such as hyperpigmentation (dark spots), hypopigmentation (light spots), or scarring.”
The new treatment, which won’t likely be covered by insurance, is expected to be available in dermatologist’s offices this spring.
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