Adjuvant therapy* with radiation may be given after surgery for breast cancer even though all detected cancer was removed. The goal is to destroy any unseen malignant cells and improve chances of cancer cure.
From 85 to 95% of patients receiving adjuvant therapy develop moderate to severe skin reactions with damage to deeper layers of the skin. The result is release of free radicals, DNA damage, and inflammation. Grade 1 injury results in redness of the skin. Grade 4 damage results in death of the full thickness of skin. The current treatment is corticosteroids which may reduce the symptoms, but are not preventive.
Extracts from Boswellia species plants have been used since the time of ancient Egypt and Ayurvedic medicine BCE. Today, extracts of Boswellia serrata** plants are used for anti-inflammatory effect resulting from 5-lipoxygenase enzyme*** inhibition. A recent study of a Boswellia serrata cream, containing boswellic acids was shown to improve signs of facial skin photoaging.
The goal of the present study was to evaluate B. serrata cream for anti-inflammatory effect and ability to prevent skin damage from radiation therapy. The patients, 114 women, were treated twice a day with either placebo cream or a 2% cream of boswellia. On days with radiation the cream was applied immediately after therapy. Redness which began after therapy was graded from slight to intense.
Testing showed that rash appeared more often in women on the placebo cream than in women who received boswellia cream. Slight and moderate redness described the rash seen on women using boswellia compared to those using placebo. Testing for redness was made more accurate using a computer-assisted device which focused on magenta-only tones in areas of inflammation.
Cortisone therapy has been used for radiation burns with benefits. The patients were free to use cortisone cream during this study if needed. There was less cortisone use by the patients on the boswellia cream than by those on the placebo.
CONCLUSION: Testing of a cream containing Boswellia serrata was shown to reduce symptoms when used to treat radiation burns following radiation adjuvant therapy for breast cancer.
NOTES: *Adjuvant therapy for breast cancer may be radiation therapy after initial treatment with surgery even with no detected cancer left behind.
**Boswellia serrata is known as boswellia and as frankincense.
***5-lipoxygenase enzymes are inflammatory. Anti-5-lipoxygenase activity is anti-inflammatory. Other products with anti-6-lipoxygenase activity include silymarin from milk thistle and turmeric from Curcuma longa.
To make your own Boswellia serrata cream, add a little frankincense essential oil to a pure unscented lotion or cream and use, externally.
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Rainbow Grocery sells the following items: Boswellia serrata, capsules and essential oils, Curcuma longa (turmeric), curcumin, milk thistle, and silymarin.