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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Light Therapy for Precancerous Skin Lesions

But it's more painful, time consuming than common treatment, dermatologist notes
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Also, photodynamic therapy "hurts when we activate the medication," he said. "It seems for many patients, the pain is much more than what they experience with cryotherapy."

Lui thinks a better, less expensive and less painful way of using the treatment is to apply the medication and let patients expose themselves to sunlight, which will activate the drug.

"We can use sunlight to treat a disease that was caused by sun exposure," Lui said.

Dr. Jeffrey Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, said photodynamic therapy might also be an improvement on topical chemotherapy. This treatment -- placing an anti-cancer medication on the skin lesions -- "remains a workhorse for the treatment of skin with areas of actinic keratoses," he said.

But the crusty wounds it causes can be unsightly for more than a month, he said. Photodynamic therapy "would be a welcomed treatment from that standpoint, as the downtime would be less," he said.

For isolated actinic keratoses, Salomon said, almost anything works: laser, liquid nitrogen or a surgical shave.

"That being said, the recurrence of lesions is expected in the majority of patients with any of the treatments, due to sun damage to their entire exposed skin. These patients all require regular surveillance for new or recurrent lesions," he said.

For the study, Eisen and colleagues analyzed four studies that compared photodynamic therapy with cryotherapy. These studies included 641 patients with a total of more than 2,000 lesions treated with cryotherapy and more than 2,000 treated with photodynamic therapy.

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