BACKGROUND: Actinic cheilitis, a common disease caused by chronic solar exposure and tobacco use, is considered a premalignant lesion with potential to develop into squamous cell carcinoma. Some of the available treatments are invasive, have unaesthetic results and require multiple sessions. OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of a therapy and its cosmetic results. METHODS: In this uncontrolled clinical trial a single photodynamic therapy (PDT) session using 16% methyl-aminolevulinate was performed on actinic cheilitis of the lower lip. A standardized questionnaire was applied in order to assess the clinical improvement from the patients' point of view and the satisfaction with the treatment. Anatomopathological evaluation was performed before the treatment and two months afterwards. RESULTS: The sample was composed of 19 patients (10 males and 9 females), phototypes I to III, with average age of 62 years. Main adverse effects were: sudden pain, scabs, herpes flare-up, and edema. The average score of pain during the procedure was 5,8+2,9. At the final assessment the patients reported improvement of 80% and satisfaction of 85% (p<0.01). Anatomopathological analysis showed a significant decrease of dysplasia (p=0.03) in spite of its presence in 84% of cases. There was no significant correlation between the level of dysplasia with either the subjective impression of clinical improvement (p=0.82) or with the patients' final satisfaction (p=0.96). CONCLUSION: PDT is effective in the treatment of actinic cheilitis, but it is associated with a significant level of pain. Due to the persistence of dysplasia, more research needs to be done in order to define the ideal number of sessions for the effective treatment of these lesions.
carcinoma, squamous cell; cheilitis; pathology; patient satisfaction; photochemotherapy