Chemoprevention of nonmelanoma skin cancer with systemic retinoids: practical dosing and management of adverse effects

Dermatol Surg. 2006 Apr;32(4):562-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2006.32115.x.


Background: In patients with nonmelanoma skin cancer that is high risk or characterized by numerous tumors, chemoprevention with systemic retinoids may effectively decrease the number of new tumors whereas the chemosuppressive effects may reduce the risk of recurrence or disease progression. A patient's intolerance of the mucocutaneous effects of retinoid therapy or abnormal laboratory findings may hamper continuous therapy.

Objective: To present a method for optimizing tolerance of systemic retinoids for chemoprevention and for monitoring and managing adverse events.

Methods: After reviewing the data on the use of systemic retinoids for chemoprevention, we developed a simplified approach for administering oral retinoids for chemoprevention of nonmelanoma skin cancer as well as basic guidelines for the prevention and management of adverse effects and appropriate laboratory monitoring.

Results: Chemoprevention with systemic retinoids in patients with a history of numerous tumors or high-risk skin cancer can be optimized with graduated dose escalation and preventive strategies for the most common adverse effects. Routine laboratory monitoring may assist in detecting adverse effects, which can be managed in most cases.

Conclusion: In our experience, the effective use of systemic retinoids for chemoprevention of nonmelanoma skin cancer in high-risk patients can be optimized through a standardized, proactive approach.

MeSH terms

  • Acitretin / therapeutic use
  • Chemoprevention*
  • Humans
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Retinoids / administration & dosage
  • Retinoids / adverse effects
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Retinoids
  • Acitretin