To examine clinical and molecular changes after topical fluorouracil treatment of photodamaged human facial skin for actinic keratoses.
Nonrandomized, open-label 2-week treatment with fluorouracil cream, 5%, followed by clinical and molecular evaluation.
Academic referral center.
Twenty-one healthy volunteers, 56 to 85 years old, with actinic keratoses and photodamage.
Twice-daily application of fluorouracil cream for 2 weeks and biopsies and clinical evaluation at baseline and periodically after treatment.
Main Outcome Measures
Gene and protein expression of molecular effectors of epidermal injury, inflammation, and extracellular matrix remodeling 24 hours after fluorouracil treatment; clinical improvement measured by evaluators, photography, and patient questionnaires.
One day after the final fluorouracil treatment, gene expression of the effectors of epidermal injury (keratin 16), inflammation (interleukin 1β), and extracellular matrix degradation (matrix metalloproteinases 1 and 3) was significantly increased. Types I and III procollagen messenger RNA were induced at week 4 (7-fold and 3-fold, respectively). Type I procollagen protein levels were increased 2-fold at week 24. Actinic keratoses and photoaging were statistically significantly improved. Most patients rated photoaging as improved and were willing to undergo the therapy again.
Topical fluorouracil causes epidermal injury, which stimulates wound healing and dermal remodeling resulting in improved appearance. The mechanism of topical fluorouracil in photoaged skin follows a predictable wound healing pattern of events reminiscent of that seen with laser treatment of photoaging.