Comparative study of imiquimod 3.75% vs. photodynamic therapy for actinic keratosis of the scalp


To assess efficacy, tolerability, adverse effects, recurrence, and aesthetic results of imiquimod 3.75% vs. photodynamic therapy with 5-aminolaevulinic acid (MAL-PDT) for actinic keratosis (AK).


A small randomized, intraindividual right-left pilot study for AK treatment of multiple scalp lesions was performed. Patients were treated with imiquimod and subsequently MAL-PDT (on opposite sides of the scalp) 14 days apart. Study end points were evaluated with clinical and dermoscopic examinations at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months.


Nine male bald patients were enrolled. Imiquimod achieved a slightly higher overall clearance rate than MAP-PDT (68.1% vs 56.5%). According to AK degree of severity, clearance rates were greater for degree I and III with imiquimod (68.8%, 64.5% and 75% with imiquimod vs. 48%, 69.8%, and 66.7% for MAL-PDT, respectively). At 12 months, a slightly higher total recurrence rate was noted for imiquimod compared with MAL-PDT (9.9% vs. 8.6%); new lesions were 2 degree I for imiquimod and 4 degree I for MAL-PDT. For both treatments, pain was moderate/strong (even if MAL-PDT seems to be less tolerable) adverse effects are common and transient; aesthetic results excellent.


Both imiquimod and MAL-PDT were effective in the reduction in the number of AK. In the long-term, both present a good effectiveness maintained over time with excellent aesthetic results. A combination or sequential therapy could optimize the management of the cancerization field.