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Dermatology Online Journal

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A systematic review on the use of cryotherapy versus other treatments for basal cell carcinoma


Background: Cryotherapy is a commonly discussed method for treatment of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. Some uncertainty remains about its efficacy relative to other modalities.

Objective: To determine the efficacy and adverse events profile of cryotherapy for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma compared to other therapeutic options or non-intervention.

Methods: We systematically searched PubMed, OVID, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, CINHAL, and CANCERLIT databases for the following terms: "cryotherapy", AND "basal cell carcinoma", OR "cryosurgery" OR "cryoablation" up to April 2018. Two independent reviewers screened the results and extracted the data. Study endpoints included basal cell carcinoma recurrence, cosmetic outcome, and healing time. Study quality was assessed using the Jadad scale.

Results: Six clinical studies met our inclusion criteria. The efficacy and safety of cryotherapy alone or with curettage in the treatment of primary superficial and nodular basal cell carcinoma was comparable to photodynamic therapy and surgery, respectively. Cryotherapy was inferior to radiation in terms of recurrence rate. Most patients had better cosmetic outcomes with photodynamic therapy and surgery compared to cryotherapy alone, and cryotherapy with curettage.

Conclusion: Current available data suggests equivalent efficacy of cryotherapy alone compared to photodynamic therapy or surgery, but inferior to radiotherapy. More studies are necessary to draw definitive conclusions.

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