The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued full guidance to the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on photodynamic therapy for non-melanoma skin tumours (including premalignant and primary non-metastatic skin lesions).


Non-melanoma skin tumours include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, Bowen's disease and actinic (or solar) keratoses.

Current treatments for basal cell carcinoma include topical chemotherapy, curettage, surgical excision, cryotherapy and radiotherapy. Squamous cell carcinoma is usually removed surgically. Actinic keratoses and Bowen's disease are usually treated with curettage, cryotherapy or topical chemotherapy.

Before photodynamic therapy (PDT), the lesion is prepared by removing overlying crust and scale. Cream containing a photosensitising agent is applied to the lesion and a margin of surrounding skin. The area is covered with a light occlusive dressing and left for a few hours. Excess cream is then removed and the lesion is illuminated by light of an appropriate wavelength to activate the photosensitiser, producing targeted tumour destruction. Occasionally, the photosensitising agent may be given intravenously. More than one lesion may be treated in a session and the treatment may be repeated.

Coding and clinical classification codes for this guidance.

Your responsibility

This guidance represents the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, healthcare professionals are expected to take this guidance fully into account, and specifically any special arrangements relating to the introduction of new interventional procedures. The guidance does not override the individual responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or guardian or carer. 

All problems (adverse events) related to a medicine or medical device used for treatment or in a procedure should be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency using the Yellow Card Scheme.

Commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to implement the guidance, in their local context, in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations. Nothing in this guidance should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties. Providers should ensure that governance structures are in place to review, authorise and monitor the introduction of new devices and procedures.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.