Photodynamic therapy for skin cancer.


Living in the Central Valley, one gets more than their fair share of vitamin D. While we would never give up the beautiful California sunshine, we are keenly aware of the negative impact that overexposure to ultraviolet light can have on the skin. Some of the aesthetic changes that arise from sun damage include:

  • Wrinkles
  • Brown spots
  • Depigmentation
  • Leathery skin texture
  • Skin laxity

On the surface, we view these changes as the signs of aging; however, on a deeper level, they signal DNA damage that inhibits the normal production of skin cells and tissues.

In the past 30 years, we have come a long way in treating these signs of aging and preventing skin cancer.

Sunscreen formulations have evolved from their tacky and smelly predecessors into lightweight applications that often contain antioxidants and even peptides to protect and regenerate the skin.
Next generation cosmetic treatments such as chemical peels and lasers can do a lot to repair damaged skin. These methods are now so advanced and safe that they can often be done over a lunch hour without concern for recovery time.

One of the most effective treatments at our disposal to address superficial precancerous and cancerous lesions—such as actinic keratosis and basal cell carcinoma—is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). In addition to targeting and eliminating abnormal cells that lurk beneath the skin’s surface, PDT rejuvenates the skin as well. The skin texture improves and its tone becomes more even after a PDT treatment.

How Photodynamic Therapy works.

A photosensitizing agent is applied to the skin and left to absorb. The agent is processed by normal cells, but remains in the cancerous cells for a longer period of time. After 24-72 hours, the treatment area is exposed to the most appropriate wavelength of light determined by your dermatologist. The required treatment wavelength will depend on the depth of penetration needed to treat the lesion(s) in question. Once the light is absorbed by the photosensitizing agent, an active form of oxygen is produced that eliminates nearby cancer cells. Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest that PDT may activate the immune system to attack tumor cells.

The recovery from Photodynamic Therapy.

Photodynamic Therapy is performed as an outpatient treatment. Once the photosensitizing agent has been activated by the light, a sun burn effect results, which can be accompanied by a burning/stinging sensation, itching, crusting, swelling and redness. These side-effects subside over a period of 4-8 weeks.

Preventing and treating skin cancer.

Photodynamic Therapy is just one of the skin cancer treatments we offer at Macias Dermatology. A skin check performed by your dermatologist once or twice a year will ascertain if PDT is a treatment that you can benefit from. And don’t forget to wear your sunscreen and protective clothing on all areas of exposed skin—365 days a year!

Contact us to arrange a skin check with one of our expert dermatologists today.