Cryotherapy for skin cancers

Very shallow skin cancers such as superficial basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas often respond well to treatment with cryotherapy, avoiding the need for an excision and stitches.

Because cryotherapy might not penetrate the full thickness of the skin, it should not be used to treat skin cancer unless a biopsy has already confirmed that the skin cancer affects only the uppermost levels of the skin. If a thicker skin cancer is treated with cryotherapy, the top of the skin cancer might appear to be cured while deeper cells continue to spread and cause damage not viisble from the surface.

The skin cancer and a margin of 2-3mm around it are treated by repeatedly freezing for 30 seconds and and thawing (three cycles). This is a stronger and more painful treatment than cryotherapy for solar keratoses, and your doctor may perform it under a local anaesthetic to reduce discomfort.

Side effects such as blistering, pain and scarring are common.