My winter vacations are over and now I have a new spot on my back. I think I got it from too many sunburns in Mexico. I am worried that it may be skin cancer. My friend had basal cell carcinoma skin cancer and it was treated with surgery. If I do have skin cancer, are there less destructive treatments?



sapijaszko_aktilite_2.jpgSkin cancers are very common and some of them can be on the back although they are most commonly seen on the sun-exposed areas in light-skinned individuals. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common cancer in the world. There are different types of BCC with superficial basal cell carcinoma (sBCC) most commonly seen on the back, chest, abdomen as well as arms and legs. Fortunately, most BCCs do not spread or kill but they can be very destructive causing pain and open wounds. Many treatments are available and are focused on surgical , topical or radiation modalities. One of the new and exciting treatments is Metvix®-PhotoDynamic Therapy (Metvix®-PDT). Truly, this is a unique way to treat superficial basal cell carcinomas.


So, how does this new modality treat skin cancer? Here is a brief summary and explanation:

  1. Metvix® cream is applied to the area of the skin where sBCC is located. Its unique properties make it penetrate into the skin with relative ease. Occlusion with tape further enhances this penetration.

  2. Once Metvix® is in the skin, it’s preferentially absorbed into abnormal cells, such as cancer cells, and converted into photo-reactive substance. This is an important concept as the cancerous cells are more active than normal cells in converting Metvix® into a powerful product that is ready to be activated by light. As such, there is a big difference in the product concentration between cancerous cell and normal cells. This difference allows precise targeting of abnormal tissues with sparing of the normally functioning skin.

  3. sapijaszko_aktilite_1.jpgThe conversion takes approximately 3 hours while the patient waits. Once sufficient product has been generated in the cancerous cells, it can be visualized using hand-held device. This confirms precise targeting of the abnormal tissues and the extent of the sun-damage.

  4. Now, it’s time for “Light Therapy”. Once Metvix® has been converted into photo-reactive product, it’s time to activate it. This is achieved by shining specific light on the skin. Once the product is exposed to the light and the surrounding tissue oxygen, it is activated and, in the process, destroys the cells in which it’s located. Since more of the product is located in the cancerous cells compared to the normal tissues, many more of these cells are eliminated. The most appropriate light source is Aktilite®. This orange light, with its precise wavelength, allows deep penetration into the skin, where cancer cells can hide. In addition, it is specific for the photo-reactive product. This precession is at the core of this new sophisticated therapy allowing targeted combination of the drug, light and oxygen.


It’s always a great day when new, precise, targeted cancer treatments are proving effective in our quest for cancer-free world. Treating skin cancers just got easier with the introduction of Metvix®-PDT. If you or someone that you know has superficial basal cell carcinoma, it does not hurt to ask if your doctor offers this new therapy. At the same time, when you venture into dermatologist’s office and see orange light being applied to patient’s skin, don’t worry – you are not dreaming and it’s not the set of Star Trek – it’s a modern way to treat selected skin cancers.

Youthful Image 


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