Photodynamic Therapy (PDT or Blue Light Therapy)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the chance that my actinic keratoses will recur?

While PDT is a very effective treatment, there is a reasonable chance that you may continue to need periodic treatments for actinic keratoses, depending on your individual skin, severity of prior sun damage, and your compulsion to avoid the sun.

Actinic keratoses may recur or a new cancer may develop in the same or adjacent area even after photodynamic therapy or other treatments. Some skin actinic keratoses are more aggressive than others and need additional treatment and closer follow-up.

Sun-damaged skin frequently needs follow-up and possible further treatment. Several studies have shown that photodynamic therapy tends to have a cure rate comparable to the traditional treatment with fluorouracil (Carac, Efudex, Fluoroplex).

It is important to note that PDT is not curative in invasive skin cancer. This may require one or more procedures such as biopsy, surgery, radiation, or other procedures to fully treat those lesions.

Follow-up appointments with your dermatologist or physician are very important, especially in the first few years after photodynamic therapy. Many patients are seen every four to six months after their diagnosis of actinic keratoses of the skin.

Self-skin examinations monthly are good practice for patients with a history of skin cancer. Any changing or new growth should be promptly checked by your physician. More regular follow-up appointments may be needed for those with more aggressive tumors or tumors in high-risk areas. Your physician will recommend the proper follow-up for your specific condition.


Darlenski, Razvigor, and Joachim W. Fluhr. "Photodynamic Therapy in Dermatology: Past, Present, and Future." Journal of Biomedical Optics 18.6 June 2013: 061208-061208-5.

Ericson, Marica B., Ann-Marie Wennberg, and Olle Larkö. "Review of Photodynamic Therapy in Actinic Keratosis and Basal Cell Carcinoma." Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 4.1 (2008): 1-9.

"Photodynamic Therapy." DermNet NZ. July 1, 2011. <>.

Savoia P, Deboli T, Previgliano A, Broganelli P. "Usefulness of Photodynamic Therapy as a Possible Therapeutic Alternative in the Treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma." Int J Mol Sci 16.10 Sept. 28, 2015: 23300-23317.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016

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