Cancer survivors’ skin ages quicker

I knew it –  according to Handle With Care Dr. Lisa Gallacher of the American Cancer Institute, evidence that “findings from our study add to the evidence that cancer and its treatment may have adverse effects on age-related processes”,  which puts us at risk for “accelerated function decline”.

Translation:  we are going to get nasty ageing lines etc. quicker than our friends of the same age.    Thanks a bunch.

If your skin is looking decidedly jaded, no one is going to make allowances – you are going to have to sort this out yourself.  Just don’t think you are being self-indulgent;  our skin is our biggest organ, and if we don’t look after it, no one else is going to

Britain has a bad record

I shudder remembering the trouble I had to see the Dermatologist at my cancer hospital, when I produced painful, blood-filled blisters all over my body three days after starting Tamoxifen. His diagnosis  “it’s your age” did nothing to help – and was totally wrong.

Or the comment, delivered by my oncologist when I desperately inquired if anything could be done to help me deal with the skin lesions and scaly patches that kept on popping out on my body, making me miserable.  “Well, you are alive aren’t you?”  He replied, and nothing else was offered.

In Britain we have fewer Dermatologists per head than major European countries;  the invaluable Google produces statistics showing we have about half as many per head as Austria, France Germany or even Belgium.  We just don’t seem to appreciate how important skin is for our well-being.

It is left to us to sort out these painful skin outbreaks.  I fled to France for some TLC skincare, and found the French much more sympathetic and on-the-ball.  I ended up at the spa town of La Roche Posay, where way back in the early 1800s Napoleon was sending his troops there if they came out in skin rashes.

Today there is a clinic there, part of the French health system, where over 10,000 patients are treated every year.  The French really take care of the skin seriously, and generally I find that their skincare ranges are excellent for treating skin conditions.  The town of La Roche Posay has given its name to a skincare range, and many of these products have undergone clinical trials for cancer skin problems.

What to use

We all glance in the mirror for reassurance that we look OK, so have to understand that if cancer drugs “age” your skin, particularly on your face, this is going to need a lot – A LOT – of work on your part to make things better.  No-one else is going to do this;  you are on your own.

Even after La Roche Posay clinic sorted out my skin problems, I found out that almost every time my drugs were changed, and new ones introduced, my skin would react.  I became used to this, and would immediately slap on extra lashings of skin balm – which soon cleared up the latest outbreak.  I did try and find out what the NHS could do to help;  not a lot, as I discovered.

Buy your own

So it’s left to us to sort out the problems.  Britain is one of the few countries that hasn’t officially invested in clinically-trialled skincare for cancer patients (clinical trials, backing from Govt. health agency, etc).  The USA has iS Clinical, France La Roche Posay, then there is Dr. Bragi (Iceland), Living Nature (New Zealand), Sensai (Japan) etc.  Here in Britain Jennifer Young has bravely set out to go it alone and provide tailored products that do wonders for our compromised skin.

I’ve tried all these companies’ products, and then some.  During Lockdown I decided to take them all out, shake them up and have a look at new. innovative things their companies were doing.  I also found out that there were some companies, who hadn’t applied to carry out clinical trials (principally because of the enormous cost) but who were producing products that were excellent on my compromised skin.  And believe me, if it worked on me – with my 14 different ‘co-morbidities – it has to work for others with the same problems!

So now, with Lockdown eased, I feel it is time to try what is new, and isee f it might work for us.  I still have flare-ups, especially when any of my drugs are changed, and gather this might go on for some years more.  American research, which, along with Jonathan Van Tam (NHS Deputy Chief Medical Officer)  I pay attention to, says that long-term side effects on our skin from cancer drugs might last for decades, so it’s with us for a long time.  As my oncologist said, I am still around, and hopefully will be for some time.

It rather looks as if those with Long-Covid may get the same problems, so hopefully my scribbles might be helpful there.

As I re-try old favourites, and find new ones, I will post comments.  If something works on my compromised skin, it should work for others.  Incidentally, this is all about side effects on our skinl  NOT about skin cancer – that’s another story.

If anyone knows of a good product that works for them, let me know.  And if any of you are developing your own skincare, I could be interested.

What you should do

NHS     Caring for your skin, whether it is on the face or body, you should


  • Cleanse
  • Tone (for the face)
  • Hydrate
  • Moisturise

Cleanser:  Look for a creamy cleanser suitable for normal-to-dry skin

Toner:  For use on the face only – again for normal-to-dry skin

Hydrate: Drink as much liquid (non-alcoholic) as you can, especially water.  One way is to keep a tumbler by the basin and every time you wash your hands, have a drink of water

Moisturise:  Buy the best you can afford.  You should have two :  one for day (either with a minimum SPF15 – or buy a separate anti-sun cream to wear on top of your usual moisturiser whenever you go out, winter and summer). And a specially-formulated one for Night. There is a valid reason why you should use a different one for day and night, but it would take far too long to explain, so if you want to know just Google it!

ALWAYS take off make-up before you go to bed.  Sorry, but leaving make-up and daily grime on your skin when you go to bed clogs up pores and is NOT good for skin.

For the body :  Soap is generally drying, so look for Shower/bath cream washes (better than gels)  Afterwards rub on a good skin balm all over, giving special attention to hands, knees and elbows.

P.S.  Anyone suffering with Long-Covid may probably find they have the same itchy patches, lesions etc.  If you do, I sympathise and know that you may find your symptoms are being ignored.  I am NOT medically qualified, but I see no reason why the products I mention shouldn’t be used on your skin.  Good Luck!