Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J.– While largely preventable, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.  If basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers are detected early, they can often be treated surgically with excellent results. However, radiation therapy, a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells, may also be part of a patient’s treatment plan.

For select patients, radiation therapy is an effective treatment with minimal side effects that may be used:

  • To treat skin cancer if a skin tumor is very large or if it is in an area that makes it hard to remove with surgery. 
  • In combination with other treatments for example, after surgery to eliminate any remaining areas of cancer cells that may not have been visible during surgery.
  • To treat melanoma that has come back after surgery, either in the skin or lymph nodes, or to help treat the spread of the disease.

Skin Brachytherapy, also called radiation seed therapy, offers a non-invasive radiation therapy solution to complement or replace surgery for certain skin cancers. In this type of radiation therapy, the radioactive source is delivered via an applicator which is placed temporarily next to a tumor, depending on the cancer type and location. That allows the elimination of cancer cells by delivering the radiation treatment from directly adjacent to the tumor mass.

Skin Brachytherapy has many benefits for skin cancer patients. This type of treatment delivers radiation with a high degree of precision, reducing damage to healthy surrounding tissue, leading to better cosmetic results and may help avoid the need for reconstructive surgery. Additionally, brachytherapy may cause fewer side effects than external beam radiation does, and the overall treatment time and number of visits are usually shorter. 

Skin cancer is largely preventable, plan ahead first. When identified early, nearly all skin cancers can be cured with treatment. The effects of UV radiation can damage skin leading to the development of skin cancer. Adopting a common-sense approach to prevention through lifestyle choices that include sun-protective measures will reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. Strategies to reduce the risk of skin cancer include limiting your time outdoors when the sun is at its most harmful (between 10am and 4pm), covering up as much as possible with sunglasses, hats and long sleeves, and using a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher on exposed areas.

At RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute and, the state’s only National Cancer Institute -Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, advanced treatment options such as radiotherapy are available for patients across the state. Learn more:

Rajesh V. Iyer, MD, is a radiation oncologist at RWJBarnabas Health and chairman of radiation oncology at Community Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility.