This is one of those “wacky but true” type of medical discoveries. Fluorouracil, a drug used to treat certain types of cancer, was found to have other beneficial properties.
Fluorouracil stops the body from synthesizing thymine, a building block of DNA, according to background information in the article. This drug is used to treat cancers of the colon, head and neck, pancreas and other organs. In early studies of patients with cancer undergoing treatment with systemic fluorouracil, clinicians noticed changes in skin appearance, which led to the development of a topical therapy for the treatment of actinic keratoses (skin lesions that may develop into skin cancer).
Before you go and run to your doctor, understand that there are consequences of playing with such powerful drugs. The patients who received this treatment for their skin had the same type of injured look which happens from laser ablative resurfacing treatments.
“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; this may provide further motivation for these patients to undergo the rigorous treatment,” the authors conclude. “It is possible that for some patients topical fluorouracil may have an important role against photo-aging. For others, however, it may not be cosmetically acceptable given that a standard course of therapy may last two to three weeks and the ensuing reaction can persist for several more weeks.
It works by damaging the outer layer of skin which causes the body to begin a healing process including the sub-dermal layer, resulting in younger, healthier looking skin.