5-Aminolaevulinic acid (ALA) is a precursor of protoporphyrin IX (Pp IX) in the biosynthetic pathway for haem. Certain types of cells have a large capacity to synthesize Pp IX when exposed to an adequate concentration of exogenous ALA. Since the conversion of Pp IX into haem is relatively slow, such cells tend to accumulate photosensitizing concentrations of Pp IX. Pp IX photosensitization can be induced in cells of the epidermis and its appendages, but not in the dermis. Moreover, since ALA in aqueous solution passes readily through abnormal keratin, but not through normal keratin, the topical application of ALA in aqueous solution to actinic keratoses or superficial basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas induces Pp IX photosensitization that is restricted primarily to the abnormal epithelium. Subsequent exposure to photoactivating light selectively destroys such lesions. In our ongoing clinical trial of ALA-induced Pp IX photodynamic therapy, the response rate for basal cell carcinomas following a single treatment has been 90% complete response and 7.5% partial response for the first 80 lesions treated. The cosmetic results have been excellent, and patient acceptance has been very good.