Local therapies for skin cancer

Local, or field, therapies are targeted to a specific area of body tissue, minimizing any effects on the rest of your body.

The most used local therapies which besides eliminating precancerous lesions may also be used for early basal and squamous cell cancers include:

  • Photodynamic therapy This therapy was pioneered at Roswell Park in the 1970s. It involves using drugs called photosensitizers which collect in the cancer cells. The drugs are activated when exposed to certain kinds of light, killing the cancer cells. Learn more about the use of photodynamic therapy in cancer treatment.
  • Topical chemotherapy. For many basal and squamous cell cancers, the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in a cream form can be applied topically to the skin to eliminate some early skin cancers.
  • Immune response modifiers are a type of immunotherapy that aim to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. Imiquimod is a topical cream that can be applied directly to a skin lesion.