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How does photodynamic therapy help to cure skin cancer?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
This treatment destroys skin cancer cells by using a powerful light source that activates a chemical solution on the skin. It's especially effective for treating a large area of sun damage with a field of early cancers that are clinically invisible.
First aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the skin. It is allowed to remain there for three hours, absorbing into highly metabolic cells (namely, cancer cells, which consume oxygen and nutrients faster than regular cells). Then the ALA solution is illuminated with an LED blue light for about twenty minutes. The chemical reaction that occurs produces by-products called porphyrins that proceed to obliterate the cancer cells. That phototoxic effect makes the skin red, swollen, and irritated, and then causes it to peel. Recovery from PDT takes about six to ten days. Oddly enough, the worse the skin looks after treatment, the better the results because local destruction of precancerous lesions causes the irritation and trauma to the area. For patients who have had skin cancer or a lot of sun damage and actinic keratoses, I recommend getting PDT three times a year.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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