Pre-Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin Pre-Cancers or Actinic Keratoses

Sun-related skin pre-cancer, or Actinic Keratosis, are scaly growths that commonly appear on fair-skinned people who live in places with constant and strong sun like Southern California. Research that these patients have a history of repeated sun exposure and/or frequent sunburns. These DNA-damaged growths are scaly in nature and typically occur on body parts that are exposed to a lot of sun: face, tops of hands, ears, and balding scalp.

These scaly growths pose a danger in turning into Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Patients with more than 10 pre-cancerous growths have a 10-15% chance of having SCC. Additionally, these patients are prone to higher rates of Basal Cell Carcinomas, Melanoma, & particularly rare forms of skin cancer like Merkel cell carcinomas.

An effective treatment for skin pre-cancers that Dr. Bita Bagheri offers her patients is Photodynamic Therapy or PDT, which is FDA-approved for these fast-growing abnormal growths. Patients also see effectiveness with this treatment for facial skin rejuvenation and mild to moderate acne, as the procedure shrinks the skin’s oil glands.

Using Levulan, an aminolevulinic acid, PDT creates a photochemical reaction to selectively destroy cancer cells. We apply Levulan to the skin which is activated by specific wavelengths of light found in the PDT light spectrum.

The 2 steps of Photodynamic Therapy

  1. We apply Levulan to your treatment area and leave it on the skin for 1-3 hours. This allows the Levulan to concentrate in the pre-cancer cells of your skin.
  2. We place you under a laser light called Blu-U or a non-laser light called Intense Pulsed Light (aka IPL) for about 15 minutes.

With Photodynamic Therapy, you can expect a sunburn-like reaction on your skin which heals within 1-6 weeks. We adamantly recommend that you protect the treated area from any sun exposure for 48 hours.

PDT side effects, image courtesy of

Dr. Bagheri is happy to discuss PDT in further detail with you to see if it’s a good option for your skin’s pre-cancerous conditions. Please call us to schedule an appointment.