INTRODUCTION: Topical 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has been used to treat actinic keratosis for decades. It has been an important and effective treatment which the patient can self-administer, but is limited by the surface area of skin to be treated (according to the manufacturer's guidelines) of 500 cm(2). Other topical treatments can be painful, or require hospital/health care professional input. The use of 5-FU under occlusion (chemowraps) for large areas of sun-damaged skin on the arms or legs has been described and is a potentially useful treatment option. We describe our experiences with this technique in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Dermatology Department (Norwich, UK).
METHODS: Five patients were recruited into this pilot study. Topical 5-FU was applied to sun-damaged limbs under occlusion, and reviewed weekly for response, and local or systemic side effects. Treatment duration was 12-14 weeks. Clinical photography was undertaken prior to, during, and after treatment to document response.
RESULTS: We show that there was substantial clinical improvement in the treated skin in our patients. Experienced dermatologists reviewed all the patients, and documented the changes photographically, and by counting lesions. All patients were satisfied with their treatment regimen, and also with the end result; although two did not complete the treatment regimen due to complications not directly attributable to the treatment.
CONCLUSION: Topical 5-FU under occlusion (chemowraps) may be a valid treatment option for large areas of sun-damaged skin with field cancerization changes, due to low systemic and local toxicity, and acceptability to patients.