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Topical chemotherapy works by modifying the body’s immune response. This means it leverages the body’s own immune response or natural defenses to do its work. When this topical solution is applied to the skin, it acts locally, triggering the release of cytokines, such as interferon. These substances then work to kill any virus present on the skin that is causing a condition. It can also target abnormal skin cells that happen from some cancers and with keratoses.
Topical chemotherapy is used to treat actinic keratosis on the face and scalp. It is also used to treat minor forms of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma, when surgery is not the best option in terms of treatment. Topical chemotherapy creams include Aldara, Carac and Efudex. Side effects can include irritation at the site of treatment and sensitivity to UV light.