Clinics in dermatology

Non-melanoma skin cancers: photodynamic therapy, cryotherapy, 5-fluorouracil, imiquimod, diclofenac, or what? Facts and controversies.

PMID 24160289


Surgical modalities-excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, and electrodesiccation with curettage-are the preferred treatments for nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). When used within guidelines, they have cure rates greater than 90%. Despite this, many other treatments have been studied and utilized for NMSC. We present a comprehensive review of the literature on these topical treatments. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is administered under numerous and significantly varied regimens, and there are a wide range of cure rates reported. Even with aggressive regimens, PDT is not as effective as surgery is, and it is not a first-line therapy for NMSC. The cryotherapy regimen aggressive enough to adequately treat NMSC carries adverse effects and cosmetic outcomes poor enough to negate its usefulness. Topical 5-fluorouracil and imiquimod are efficacious and safe for the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma (BCC) but not other BCC subtypes or squamous cell carcinoma. They are self-administered twice daily for several weeks; therefore, patient and tumor selection are vital to ensuring adherence. There are currently insufficient data to support the use of topical diclofenac and ingenol mebutate for NMSC.