Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size


Medicines are rarely used to treat nonmelanomaskin cancer. Surgery is the most common and the most effective treatment. But when surgery is not possible, your doctor may suggest medicines. Medicines may also be used when a skin cancer is too large for surgery or when new skin cancers keep appearing.

Medicine choices

Medicines that may be used to treat basal cell carcinoma include:

  • Fluorouracil (5-FU). This cream or lotion is used to treat carcinomas that are only in the top layer of skin (superficial).
  • Imiquimod (Aldara). Imiquimod is used to treat superficial basal cell cancer on the skin of the body, neck, arms, or legs, but it is not approved for treating the face.
  • Vismodegib pills may be used if surgery and radiation haven't worked and if the basal cell carcinoma has spread to other parts of the body.

Medicines that may be used to treat squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Fluorouracil (5-FU). This cream or lotion is used to treat superficial carcinomas.
  • Tretinoin (Retin-A) cream. Along with this cream, you may be given isotretinoin pills.
  • Interferon may be given to help your immune system fight the cancer. This is given by injection (shot).

People treated with medicines will need to have regular follow-up visits with their doctors to make sure the skin cancer is gone.

Chemotherapy may be used to destroy cancer cells in the small number of people who have basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma that has spread (metastasized) to other organs in the body, though metastasis is rare.

What to think about

Medicines such as 5-FU and imiquimod may cause your skin to be sore. Your skin may turn red, swell, itch, or break out in a rash. Your skin may also be sensitive to sunlight. If your skin turns too red or raw, your doctor may stop the treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays