Treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer

Main treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer can usually be effectively treated.

The treatment you have will depend on:

Surgery is the main treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer. Radiotherapy, targeted medicines, photodynamic therapy and chemotherapy are also sometimes used.

The specialist care team looking after you will:

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments.

Depending on the stage of your non-melanoma, you may have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects you're worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.


Surgery is the main treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer, especially if it's found early.

You may also need surgery if the skin cancer has spread to other areas of your body or if it's come back again after being removed.

Several types of surgery can be used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer, including:

If a large area of skin is removed, skin may need to be taken from another part of your body and used to cover the area where the skin cancer was. This is known as a skin graft.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells.

It may sometimes be recommended if:

Sometimes radiotherapy is used after surgery to help reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.

Targeted medicines and immunotherapy

Targeted medicines aim to stop the cancer growing.

Immunotherapy medicines help your immune system find and kill cancer cells.

There are different types that come as a skin cream, tablets or liquid that's given directly into a vein.

Targeted medicines or immunotherapy may be used if:

Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy uses light-sensitive medicine and a light source to kill cancer cells.

It's carried out in hospital and is sometimes used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer if it's not too thick and has not spread deeper into the skin.

The light-sensitive medicine can be given as a cream, tablet or injection.

After the cancer cells have absorbed the medicine, a lamp or laser is shone on the affected area. The light reacts with the medicine and kills the cancer cells.


Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells.

A chemotherapy cream is sometimes used to treat skin cancers that only affect the top layer of skin.

You'll usually need to use the cream for 3 to 4 weeks. Your specialist team will be able to give you more advice about how to use it.

Chemotherapy given into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy) is rarely used to treat skin cancer.

Page last reviewed: 4 May 2023
Next review due: 4 May 2026