Nonablative Fractional Laser Therapy May Help Prevent Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers

Get Permission

Researchers discovered that simple laser treatments to the skin may help prevent the development of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, according to a new study published by Benson et al in Dermatologic Surgery.


Collectively known as keratinocyte carcinomas, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the United States.

Nonablative fractional lasers—currently used to treat scars, sun-damaged skin, and age spots—deliver heat in a fractional manner that leaves the skin fully intact after treatment. Although the treatment’s effectiveness for preventing skin damage is unknown, the new research revealed an easy-to-implement strategy that may protect an individual’s skin health.

Study Methods and Results

To investigate, the researchers studied patients who had been successfully treated for facial keratinocyte carcinoma in the past. These patients have a 35% risk of experiencing recurrent keratinocyte carcinoma within 3 years and a 50% risk of recurrence within 5 years.

In the study, the researchers involved 43 patients who received nonablative fractional laser therapy and 52 patients in a control group who did not receive the laser therapy.

They observed a 20.9% rate of recurrence for facial keratinocyte carcinoma during an average follow-up of over 6 years among patients treated with nonablative fractional laser therapy, and a 40.4% rate of recurrence among the control group—indicating that patients treated with the laser therapy demonstrated about half the risk.

When controlling for age, gender, and skin type, patients in the control group were 2.65-fold more likely to develop a new facial keratinocyte carcinoma than patients treated with nonablative fractional laser therapy.

Additionally, among patients who developed a facial keratinocyte carcinoma, the time to development was significantly longer in patients treated with nonablative fractional laser therapy compared with patients who did not receive the therapy.


“These findings suggest that [nonablative fractional laser] treatment may have an important role in protecting against subsequent keratinocyte carcinomas,” explained Mathew Avram, MD, JD, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Director of Dermatologic Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser and Cosmetics Center. “While the mechanism of nonablative fractional lasers’ protective effect is not completely understood, it is suspected that [the] treatment reduces the overall burden of photodamaged keratinocytes and may promote a wound healing response, which gives healthy skin cells a selective advantage,” he concluded.

The researchers noted that additional studies are warranted to more critically assess the role of nonablative fractional laser therapy in skin cancer prevention, to more fully understand the duration of its protective effects, and to determine optimal treatment parameters.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.