Most Effective Treatment for Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma

A variety of non-invasive treatments are available in the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma. A study looked at three different methods to determine the most effective approach after one, three and five years: photodynamic therapy, topical imiquimod or topical 5-fluorouracil.

A prospective, randomised, controlled, multi-centre trial was undertaken with 601 patients. For the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma, five per cent imiquimod cream was found to be superior to methyl aminolevulinate photodynamic therapy at one and three years after treatment. Meanwhile, 5-fluorouracil cream was found to be not inferior to photodynamic therapy. No definite conclusion could be drawn regarding the superiority of imiquimod over 5-fluorouracil.

The results of the five-year period were recently published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Five years after treatment, the probability of tumour-free survival was 80.5 per cent for imiquimod, 70 per cent for 5-fluorouracil, and 62.7 per cent for photodynamic therapy.

The study concluded that, five years after treatment, five per cent imiquimod cream is superior to both methyl aminolevulinate photodynamic therapy and 5-fluorouracil cream in terms of efficacy for superficial basal cell carcinoma.

The authors of the study consider five per cent imiquimod cream as the first choice for non-invasive treatment in most primary superficial basal cell carcinomas.

Read more research on 5-fluorouracil cream.


Jansen, M.H.E. et al. (March 2018.) Five-Year Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Effectiveness of Photodynamic Therapy, Topical Imiquimod, and Topical 5-Fluorouracil in Patients with Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Vol 138. Issue 3. Pages 527-533.

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