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The Nation

June 23, 1988

Accutane, the controversial anti-acne drug based on a chemical related to vitamin A, could offer an effective way to prevent skin cancer, government researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Pills containing high doses of the vitamin A cousin known generically as isotretinoin reduced by 63% the incidence of skin cancer among patients with a rare genetic disease that makes victims prone to skin cancer, the researchers said. But because the drug produced a variety of side effects, including very dry skin, abnormal liver function and calcium accumulations, it would not be practical for long-term use by the general population, the researchers said. The researchers are now studying lower doses and variations of the drug in the hopes they may produce fewer side effects while still offering protection against skin cancer.

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