Photodynamic therapy for nonmelanoma skin cancer

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is being studied as a treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer. PDT is a process of applying a medicine to a skin cancer and then shining a special laser light on it. Results of early studies with the medicine 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) show that topical PDT may be effective in treating actinic keratoses on the face and scalp, squamous cell carcinomas in the earliest stage (Bowen's disease), and superficial basal cell carcinomas. Studies report good results with skin appearance after treatment and a low rate of side effects.1

Researchers believe that PDT may be particularly effective in treating actinic keratoses, large or multiple skin cancers, Bowen's disease, or some basal cell cancers. But PDT is not used for the treatment of nodular basal cell carcinomas or fully developed squamous cell carcinomas.2, 3


  1. Liu H, et al. (2004). Photodynamic therapy of multiple nonmelanoma skin cancers with verteprofin and red light-emitting diodes: Two-year results evaluating tumor response and cosmetic outcomes. Archives of Dermatology, 140(1): 26–32.
  2. Morton CA, et al. (2002). Guidelines for topical photodynamic therapy: Report of a workshop of the British Photodermatology Group. British Journal of Dermatology, 146: 552–567.
  3. Morton CA, et al. (2001). Photodynamic therapy for large or multiple patches of Bowen disease and basal cell carcinoma. Archives of Dermatology, 137: 319–324.

Last Updated: October 14, 2008

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