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Radiation Damaged Skin
By Jennifer Young
Radiotherapy, also known as radiation treatment, is the controlled use of high energy X-rays to treat many different types of cancer. About 4 out of 10 people with cancer have radiotherapy. The length of each course of radiotherapy will depend on the size and type of cancer and where it is in the body.
Radiation damaged skin is often described as ‘really bad sunburn’. When I have suffered sunburn I wanted to put soothing oils or gels on my skin to take the pain away.
Both approaches can be problematic when dealing with skin that has been damaged by radiation treatment for cancer.
‘After sun’ gels often contain Aloe Vera, and there is some evidence to suggest that Aloe is soothing to radiation-damaged skin1. However, Aloe is a potent phyto-oestrogen and, as such, can be damaging to cancer patients. Anthraquinones; a constituent of Aloe are known to possess high oestrogenic properties in human breast cancer cells2. This and other constituents of Aloe are added to cosmetics for the purpose of breast enlargement.
When developing the Defiant Beauty Skincare Collection we were asked not to include phyto-oestrogens and were specifically asked not to include Aloe.
Oils can help to soothe and moisturise your skin. You need to be very careful about when you apply the oil. You should NEVER apply the oil before treatment, only afterwards and during breaks in treatment. We suggest that you apply the oil before a bath or shower so that excess oil can be washed away3.
We recommend our Itchy Skin Oil to clients undergoing radiaytion therapy. Itchy Skin Oil contains Calendula, a soothing herbal macerate that has been shown to improve moderate-to-severe dermatitis (sore, dry and itchy skin)3.
The Society of Radiographers4 recommends that thick creams and creams with a high content of paraffin or petroleum jelly are not used on radiation damaged skin
What can you use?
The choice of product is always going to be a decision for your medical team and you should consult with them.
The Defiant Beauty Collection and Radiation Damaged Skin
The Defiant Beauty Collection does not contain creams as creams and lotions contain oil and water. In order to turn oil and water into a cream or lotion, preservatives and emulsifying agents must be added. Creams and lotions cannot be made without using a large number of ingredients, increasing the number of substances that the patient is exposed to. As cancer patients often have sore, sensitive, dry, itchy and damaged skin we have decided to keep the number of ingredients in our products to a minimum – this means no creams or lotions.
Using products on radiation damaged skin whilst going through treatment can be complex. You should check with your medical team before using any products on the affected area.
If you, or your team, have any questions about our products or ingredients, please ask, either by using the comments section below or via our contact form.
1. Dweck AC. Herbal medicine for the skin – their chemistry and effects on skin and mucous membranes. Pers Care Mag. 2002;3:19–21.
2.Matsumura A, Ghosh A, Pope GS and Darbre PD. Comparative Study of oestrogenic properties of eight phytoestrogens in MCF7 human breast cancer cells. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2005;94; 431-443
3.Thomas R (2011) Lifestyle and cancer the facts, learn how to live stronger for longer Health Education Publications page 208, 209, 210
4.Summary of Intervention for Acute Radiotherapy-Induced Skin Reactions in cancer Patients: A Clinical Guideline recommended for use by The Society and College of Radiographers [online] Available at http://www.sor.org/learning/document-library/summary-interventions-acute-radiotherapy-induced-skin-reactions-cancer-patients-clinical-guideline-5 [accessed 8 March 2013].