Feature Article

Photodynamic therapy for skin cancers

Vernon SC Pua, Ross StC Barnetson



Photodynamic therapy is a step forward in the treatment of superficial skin cancers, achieving excellent cosmesis with relatively few side effects. With further improvements, it may surpass current therapies as first line treatment for certain skin cancers and dermatoses.

Key Points

  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is most suitable for superficial basal cell carcinomas, Bowen’s disease and actinic keratoses.
  • PDT is not effective in treating melanoma and squamous cell carcinomas.
  • PDT achieves excellent cosmetic results.
  • The two main topical photosensitisers used are 5-aminolaevulinic acid and methyl aminolevulinate.
  • The main side effect of PDT is pain.
  • Regular skin checks are required after successful tumour clearance with PDT as recurrence is possible.