New, quicker treatment for solar keratoses

28 Jul
The most effective topical treatment for solar keratoses now takes 4 days instead of 4 weeks.

Solar keratoses are a common pre-cancer condition affecting approximately 50% of white Australians over 40 years old (Chia 2007). When they are present in small numbers, they are usually easily and quickly treated by cryotherapy (freezing). But if many solar keratoses are present, cryotherapy is impractical due to the number of lesions and also because it can only treat visible lesions — it doesn't treat the preclinical solar keratoses which are present but not yet visible.

Various field treatments have been used to treat the general sun damaged area: for example, the upper face, backs of hands, forearms or chest. Until recently, the treatment with the most success has been fluorouracil cream (Jansen 2019). Unfortunately, while highly effective, this cream has several problems:

  • must be used twice daily for four weeks or longer
  • pain during treatment (sometimes so severe that treatment needs to be discontinued)
  • redness, sores, crusts and peeling of the skin
  • exposure to sunlight is prohibited during treatment

Good news is that there's now a new way of using fluorouracil: in combination with calcipotriol, a for of vitamin D which stimulates immune system cells that have anti-cancer effects.

This combination causes less inflammation and other side effects, only needs to be used for 4 days (not 4 weeks) and reduces the risk of squamous cell carcinoma in the treated area for up to 3 years.

(Cunningham 2016, Bricknell 2021, Rosenberg 2019).

In addition, the price is cheaper than the now-discontinued 3-day treatment, ingenol mebutate.

The combination of fluorouracil and calcipotriol is not yet commercially available in most pharmacies. In other words, no pharmaceutical company manufactures this preparation.

In order to obtain the combination, a doctor can write a prescription for a compounding pharmacist to make up and dispense the combination cream. Alternatively, Spot Check Clinic can provide the cream to patients wanting effective and rapid treatment of their solar keratoses.

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Web link

Information about calcipotriol/ fluorouracil including instructions on how to take and side effects


  • Jansen M, Kessels J, Nelemans P et al
    Randomized trial of four treatment approaches for actinic keratosis
    N Engl J Med 2019; 380:935-946
  • Cunningham TJ, Tabacchi M, Elaine JP et al
    Randomized trial of calcipotriol combined with 5-fluorouracil for skin cancer precursor immunotherapy
    J Clin Invest. 2017;127(1):106-11