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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Photodynamic Therapy

Topic Overview

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment used for nonmelanoma skin cancer. PDT is a process. First a medicine is applied to the skin. Then the doctor shines a special light on it. PDT may be used to treat skin cancers when surgery or radiation can't be used.

Medicines used in PDT for skin cancer include 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), methyl aminolevulinate (MAL), and porfirmer sodium.

PDT is used to treat actinic keratoses on the face and scalp. It's also used to treat squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen's disease) and superficial basal cell carcinomas. Studies show that cure rates for skin cancers treated with PDT may be slightly lower than with surgery or radiation. But PDT does not leave a scar like surgery does.footnote 1

Studies of PDT with the medicine MAL found that this treatment worked as well as cryosurgery for actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen's disease).footnote 2

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2012). Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, Version 2. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/PDF/nmsc.pdf.
  2. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2010). Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, Version 1. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/PDF/nmsc.pdf.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology

Current as ofMarch 28, 2018


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