Topical 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)

Topical 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is a topical chemotherapy agent used commonly to treat precancerous lesions known as actinic or solar keratoses. With regard to the treatment of true cancers, it is only effective for the superficial type basal cell carcinomas.  It is usually applied twice daily for 6 - 12 weeks but the exact regime may vary according to the individual needs, and works by destroying the actively growing cancer cells. 

This treatment should be reserved for individuals with superficial type basal cell carcinomas in which no other treatment option is practical. In addition to being a treatment option, 5-FU may have some preventative value when used daily and/or in combinations with topical Retin A.  This treatment option should be strongly considered for individuals with Gorlin Syndrome.

Reported cure rates range from 80 - 95% when true superficial type basal cell carcinomas were treated. Side effects include scarring, pigment loss at the treated site, and allergic reactions.  Individuals should be carefully followed up for signs of recurrence.

Ref: Telfer NR, Colver GB and Morton CA. Guidelines for the management of basal cell carcinoma. Br Journal of Dermatology 2008, 159: 35 - 48

Further information about this treatment can be accessed courtesy of British Association of Dermatologist Patient Information Leaflet 

Next Review January 2016

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 Originally produced by Professor P. A. Farndon, Clinical Geneticist, Jim Costello (deceased) and Margaret Costello.  We are reliant on a team of medical advisors for the clinical content of the website. We are grateful for their continuing support. 
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