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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Photodynamic Therapy

Topic Overview

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 carcinoma in situ (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

Studies of PDT with methyl aminolevulinate (MAL) found that this treatment was as effective as cryosurgery for actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen's disease).2

Related Information



  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. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2010). Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, Version 1. Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRandall D. Burr, MD - Dermatology
Last RevisedOctober 1, 2010

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