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Keratoacanthoma Treatment & Management

  • Author: Tsu-Yi Chuang, MD, MPH, FAAD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
 
Updated: Feb 29, 2016
 

Medical Care

Treatment of keratoacanthoma (KA) is primarily surgical. Reserve medical treatment for exceptional cases where surgical intervention is either not feasible or desirable. For example, medical intervention may be appropriate in patients with multiple lesions, in lesions not amenable to surgery because of size or location, and in patients with comorbidities that dissuade surgical procedure.

Systemic retinoids, such as isotretinoin, are a consideration for patients with lesions too numerous for surgical intervention.

Intralesional methotrexate (MTX),[26] 5-fluorouracil, bleomycin, and steroids have been used with success in patients who are either poor surgical candidates or have lesions not amenable to surgery because of size or location.[27, 28] A 2007 review of the use of intralesional injection of MTX on 38 patients, including 18 of the researchers' patients, showed a 92% clinical "resolution" rate; however, patients needed an average of 2.1 injections to achieve it. Only 13% (5 patients) obtained histological confirmation.[29] Both topical imiquimod and 5-fluorouracil have been used with anecdotal success.[30]

Note much of the literature concerning medical intervention for keratoacanthoma is limited to case reports or case series. Be cautious when making the decision to pursue medical in lieu of surgical intervention and perform appropriate follow-up.

Medicolegal concerns

Failure to diagnose keratoacanthoma can result in substantial morbidity and, occasionally, mortality. Physicians diagnosing and/or treating keratoacanthoma are held legally responsible for actions (or actions not taken) that fall outside of the standard of care.

Failure to treat keratoacanthoma appropriately may result in local destruction, unacceptably high levels of recurrence and metastasis, or in other cases, may result in an unfavorable risk-to-benefit ratio. Because overtreating or undertreating keratoacanthoma can have untoward effects, physicians treating keratoacanthoma bear the liability for selecting and performing the appropriate level of treatment.

Failure to educate patients about prevention, self-examination, and the nature of the tumor may result ultimately in an unacceptable level of morbidity and mortality. Since keratoacanthoma is a strong risk factor for future occurrences of nonmelanoma skin cancer and may be a marker for internal malignancy in the context of some syndromes, appropriate education and follow-up must be performed.

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Surgical Care

The primary therapy for keratoacanthoma is surgical excision of the tumor. Excise tumors with adequate margins (3-5 mm) and histopathologic evaluation to exclude invasive SCC. Partial shave biopsy usually inadequately distinguishes between keratoacanthoma and invasive SCC. In some patients, smaller lesions may be treated with deep excisional shave and curettage or other destructive techniques. Because the biological behavior of an individual keratoacanthoma cannot be predicted, many consider surgical treatment of keratoacanthoma to be equivalent to treatment for SCC.

Mohs micrographic surgery may be indicated for large or recurrent keratoacanthomas or keratoacanthomas located in anatomic areas with cosmetic or functional considerations.

Keratoacanthomas are radiosensitive and respond well to low doses of radiation (< 10 Gy). Radiation therapy may be useful in selected patients with large tumors in whom resection will result in cosmetic deformity or for tumors that have recurred following attempted excisional surgery. Radiation therapy is less appealing in younger patients in whom radiation damage worsens with time. Radiation therapy is an important alternative treatment for selected patients who understand the risks and benefits, who are not good surgical candidates, or who lack access to Mohs surgery.

Both laser therapy and cryotherapy have been used successfully in small keratoacanthomas, in keratoacanthomas found in difficult to treat locations, and as an adjunct to surgical removal.

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Consultations

Consult a dermatologist to exclude invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Tsu-Yi Chuang, MD, MPH, FAAD Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California; Dermatologist, HealthCare Partners

Tsu-Yi Chuang, MD, MPH, FAAD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, International Society of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Steven R Feldman, MD, PhD Professor, Departments of Dermatology, Pathology and Public Health Sciences, and Molecular Medicine and Translational Science, Wake Forest Baptist Health; Director, Center for Dermatology Research, Director of Industry Relations, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Steven R Feldman, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, North Carolina Medical Society, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Amgen for consulting; Received honoraria from Abbvie for consulting; Received honoraria from Galderma for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from Lilly for consulting; Received ownership interest from www.DrScore.com for management position; Received ownership interest from Causa Reseasrch for management position; Received grant/research funds from Janssen for consulting; Received honoraria from Pfizer for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from No.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Ryan Brashear, MD Staff Physician, Department of Dermatology, Indiana University School of Medicine

Ryan Brashear, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Arash Taheri, MD Research Fellow, Center for Dermatology Research, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Keratoacanthoma (squamous cell carcinoma-keratoacanthoma or SCC-KA type) on inner canthus.
Keratoacanthoma of the left forehead.
Close-up view of the keratoacanthoma.
Keratoacanthoma lesion (squamous cell carcinoma-keratoacanthoma or SCC-KA type).
 
 
 
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