Shop 2 / 191 Mogill Road, Taringa QLD 4068

Creams for skin cancer

Some forms of skin cancer, including superficial basal cell cancers and Bowens Disease, or very thin SCCs can be treated with creams. Solar keratosis, or sunspots respond well to various types of creams. The use of skin cancer creams has advantages over surgery in that there is less scarring, and no tissue is removed. This means quicker recovery times, and less limitations on activities. Using specialised creams in the correct setting is essential for the best results with the lowest recurrence rates. Our skin cancer doctors will guide you in regards to the application of creams, and the safety profile of treating various forms of skin cancers.

Important fact on treating skin cancers with creams

  • Only thin non-invasive skin cancers can be treated with creams
  • Superficial BCCs and Intraepidermal SCCs respond well to creams
  • Cream treatment of skin cancers result in less scarring compared to surgery for skin cancers
  • Skin cancer creams work by destroying the cancer with chemotherapy, stimulating your immune system, or by light based destruction of tumor cells
  • Application of creams can as short as 2 applications for treatments such as photodynamic therapy or PDT
  • Treatments such as Imiquimod or Aldara can take up to 6 weeks to complete

What types of skin cancers can be treated with creams?

BCCs skin cancer

Only certain types of skin cancers can be safely treated with creams. Your skin cancer specialist will guide you as to your treatment options for a particular form of skin cancer.


Type of skin cancer and pre- cancerous lesions that can be treated with creams include-


Basal cell cancers: Superficial subtype. This means that the skin cancer is very thin, and does not invade into the underlying skin. Superficial BCCs can be identified clinically as flat red scaly areas, or by histology- testing a tiny piece of skin under the microscope.


SCCs – of the thin type, also known as IECs or intraepidermal cancers, or Bowen’s disease. If SCCs are very thin, and do NOT invade the deeper layers of skin, they can be safely and effectively treated with creams.


Solar Keratosis, or Sun Spots are precancerous lesions, and may lead to thin SCCs or Bowen’s disease. These should always be treated, as prevention is better than cure.


Types of skin cancers that can NOT be treated with creams include- melanomas, moles, dysplastic naevi, invasive BCCs including solid BCCs, Morpheic BCCs, micronodular BCCs, infiltrating BCCs, BCCs with nerve spread, and all forms of invasive SCCs.


Your Skin Cancer Specialist at My Skin Clinic will guide you as to what is the best method to treat your form of skin cancer.

What creams can be used for treating skin cancer?

picato brisbane

More than ever, patients now have a good selection of creams for skin cancer treatment. The most frequently used creams at My Skin Cancer Clinics include –


  • Efudix or 5FU- this treatment has been time tested and can be an excellent method for treating sunspots, pre cancerous lesions and also IECs or Bowens Disease. Main advantage, its cheap, the disadvantage is that it may need to be applied for up to 6 weeks. This is not an option for treating basal cell cancers
  • Aldara – this can be used to treat sun spots, solar keratosis, as well as superficial BCCs. Treatment times vary between 3-6 weeks.
  • PDT or photodynamic therapy- the most convenient method to treat sunspots, superficial BCCs, and IECs. Sunspots require one treatment, skin cancers require two. Skin heals up within days. Downside is the cost, as the cream is expensive and a laser-light needs to be used to activate the cream. Best for skin cancers on the face and lower legs.
  • • Picato Gel- invented in Brisbane, Queensland, and is now used throughout the World. In Australia, only approved for sun-spots or solar keratosis. Application over several days.


Remember, only some forms of skin cancer can be treated with creams. Our experienced skin cancer doctors will guide you as to what is the best treatment for your type of skin cancer…

How long will I need to apply creams for skin cancer treatment?

skin cancer doctorYour skin cancer doctor will guide you as to the duration of cream treatment. As a guide you will need to apply creams for a duration of 2 weeks – 6weeks, depending on the type of cream you use and the type of skin cancer treated.


Photodynamic Therapy or PDT uses a cream called METVIX, this from of skin cancer treatment is the most convenient, as cream treatment is applied 3 hours before a laser light is used. Most patients will require 2 treatment sessions, spaced a few weeks apart.


Other forms of creams (such as Imiquimod, or 5FU) will need to be applied by yourself for several weeks.


 Read more about Photodynamic Therapy

How effective are skin cancer cream treatments?

sunspots and efudixIf used correctly, skin cancer creams have a very high success rate in removing sun spots as well as treating superficial skin cancers such as superficial basal cell cancers, and superficial squamous cell cancers such as Bowen’s disease or Intraepidermal Cancers.

As with all skin cancer treatments, follow up by your skin cancer doctor is required to ensure that your sun damage or skin cancer has been cleared.

How will I know if cream treatment for my skin cancer is successful?

Follow up follow skin cancer treatment is always needed. By careful examination of your treated areas, your skin cancer professional can tell if skin cancer treatment has been successful. In some situations, a biopsy, or sample of the skin can be helpful, as we send the sample away for testing under the microscope.


If you have had treatment for skin cancer, lifetime follow up is advisable as you are at risk for developing another skin cancer.

What are the advantages of cream over surgery for skin cancer treatment?

anti-acne creams gold coastThe main advantage of using cream over surgery is that skin tissue is preserved with creams- no cuts, not stitches, no blood, no needles.


Cream treatment may also result in less scarring, and also less limitation on activities compared to surgery.


Remember, only certain types of skin cancer can be treated with creams. Specialists at My Skin Clinics will advise you in regards to what is the best treatment for YOU.


Read more about Photodynamic Therapy

What are the disadvantages of creams compared to skin cancer surgery?

Creams provide patients with an additional option for the removal of certain forms of skin cancer, and may NOT be the solution for your type of skin cancer.


In summary surgery is-

  • More convenient as the procedure is done in one session (unless the cancer is very large or has ‘roots’)
  • More successful in treating aggressive forms of skin cancer such as morpheic BCCs, invasive, and aggressive BCCs, recurrent basal cell tumors, as well as Squamous Cell Cancers
  • Good for ‘testing the excision’. This means that your skin cancer doctor sends the sample of skin for further testing to ensure that the cancer has been completely removed


Your skin cancer specialist will guide you as to what is the BEST method of skin cancer removal.

What are the side effects of creams for skin cancer treatment?

All creams will have expected and controllable reactions if applied correctly. Skin cancers are expected to be inflamed or aggravated following skin cancer treatment. Additionally pre skin cancerous areas, such as sun damage, solar keratosis and sun spots will react the same way.


Side effect of cream treatment for skin cancers include-

  • Skin irritation
  • Redness of the cancer area and surrounding skin
  • Itchy, crust, and rarely ulceration


Creams such as imiquimod or ALDARA and EFUDIX will have skin reactions that may last for up to 6-8 weeks, however photochemical creams such as PHOTODYNAMIC THERAPY or PDT reactions typically last a few days.

 Read more about photodynamic therapy

How much do skin cancer creams cost?

skin cancer surgery medicareCreams for skin cancer vary in price according to the amount used, the number of treatments and the type of chemical.


As a guide, Efudix for sunspots cost $60-75 dollars, whist Aldara and Picato Gel is more expensive. Photodynamic Therapy cost several hundred dollars for treatment. The exact amount will be dependent on the size of your skin cancer and the NUMBER of treatments required.


  • Some health insurance companies will rebate an amount back from PDT treatment for sunspots and skin cancers.
  • PBS scheme can approve a subsidy for Aldara for basal cell cancers, providing a sample has been taken.

What other options do I have for treating skin cancers?

PDT brisbaneSkin cancer treatment is always tailored according to the skin cancer type, location, and individual factors. Specialists at My Skin Clinic will guide you in regards to the BEST treatment but also provide you with options for treating skin cancers and pre cancer cells. Other options include-

 Surgery for skin cancer: This is the best option for solid cancers, invasive BCCs, SCCs, moles, melanomas and keratoacanthomas. Surgery provides a very high cure rate, but a longer recovery time. In cosmetically sensitive areas, scarring maybe an issue.


Curette and Diathermy: can be used to treat BCCs or Bowens, however can result in scarring or changes in skin colour.


Liquid Nitrogen: this can be used to treat very thin Basal Cell Cancers, and early sun-damage.


 Laser surgery: This is a very specialised procedure performed by Specialist Laser Dermatologist, and is ideal for treating precancerous areas on the lips, and face. Scarring is reduced, and cosmetic benefits such as improved skin texture and skin tone can be seen.


 Combination PDT and Laser: Again a very specialised treatment for skin cancers of the Superficial BCC subtype and IEC. Dermatologists combine PDT with V Beam laser, followed by FRAXEL laser all in one session. This combination address both skin cancer, pre cancerous cells and provides cosmetic rejuvenation to the treated areas and surrounding skin.

Can creams help prevent skin cancer?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes. Creams can be used to help REDUCE the incidence of skin cancers by treating sun damage, sun spots and solar keratosis. Solar keratosis can be classed as pre-cancerous lesions and should be treated.


Here are some ways Skin Cancer Doctors and Dermatologists use creams to reduce the amount of sun damage-


Mild sun damage- Vitamin A creams can be applied nightly to affected areas. Vitamin A can only reduce very mild sun damage, and should always be used as a prevention cream after any treatment.


Moderate to severe sun damage- Creams such as PICATO, EFUDIX, ALDARA or PDT can be used to treat sun spots. Your skin cancer doctor will discuss what is the best treatment for your type of sun-damage.

Skin cancer specialist opinion on skin cancer creams

“My Skin Clinics”


Skin cancer creams have come along way since the use of Efudix or 5 FU over two decades ago. Now patients have a selection of creams to effectively treat both skin cancer and pre cancerous areas. We individualize treatments according to the type of skin cancer, the location of skin cancer, as well as the downtime of the patient. Most importantly we take into consideration the potential for scarring, and take steps to minimise scars following skin cancer treatment.


Photodynamic therapy is an excellent method to treat superficial BCCs anywhere on the body, but is especially useful on facial areas, as well as on the lower limbs. This treatment is performed by the clinic, and provides superior convenience compared to creams applied by the patient.


Other creams we commonly use include ALDARA, EFUDIX and PICATO; each has their own merits and drawbacks.