Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common skin tumors. Because of their frequent localization on the face and hand, aesthetic aspects of the therapeutic procedures should also be considered. Surgical excision still remains the first choice, but recently several new alternative therapies have emerged, especially for the treatment of superficial skin cancer. Photodynamic therapy has become a widely accepted therapeutic method for certain non-melanoma skin tumors. Photodynamic therapy involves the use of light to activate a photosensitizer, localized in diseased tissues. Photosensitizers are tumor-selective: their accumulation in rapidly proliferating cells and newly formed blood vessels is significantly higher than in the surrounding healthy tissues. During photodynamic therapy, cytotoxic reactive oxygen species are formed from the photosensitizer, leading to changes in subcellular pathways or apoptosis of the cells. Efficacy of the photodynamic therapy has been proven in solar keratosis, superficial basal cell carcinoma and morbus Bowen, with significantly better cosmetic outcome than that of the conventional therapeutic methods. Side effects, like erythema, crusting, serous discharge, or oedema, are usually moderate, and dissolve rapidly. The present article summarizes the authors' experiences with photodynamic treatment (212 non-melanoma skin cancer patients were treated with PDT between December 2003 and January 2006), at the Department of Dermatology and Allergology, University of Szeged, Hungary, and reviews the literature of photodynamic therapy in dermatooncology.
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