Relative Efficacy of Nonoperative Treatment of Keratoacanthomas

J Cutan Med Surg. 2020 Jan/Feb;24(1):41-46. doi: 10.1177/1203475419882336. Epub 2019 Oct 8.


Background: Keratoacanthomas (KAs) are neoplasms of squamous epithelium which exhibit rapid growth and are often difficult to distinguish clinically from squamous cell carcinoma. Excision is the most common treatment, but in refractory cases or for KAs in cosmetically sensitive areas, nonoperative modalities may be better suited.

Objective: To compare efficacies of topical and intralesional therapies for the treatment of KAs.

Methods: A systematic literature review was performed using Medline, Ovid, and Embase. Studies looking at the efficacy of topical or intralesional treatments for KAs were included. To compare efficacy, 2-tailed t-tests were performed, with P < .05 considered statistically significant.

Results: Forty-one studies were identified across 5 modalities. Both topical and intralesional treatments had high KA eradication rates (92%-100%). Intralesional 5-fluorouracil led to faster KA healing times when compared to intralesional methotrexate (3.7 vs 4.6 weeks, P = .017). Similarly, topical 5-fluorouracil led to faster time to heal than topical imiquimod (3.8 vs 7.6 weeks with imiquimod, P < .0001).

Conclusion: For nonoperative treatment of KAs, strong evidence currently exists for both topical and intralesional therapies. Decisions on which modality to use should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Keywords: efficacy; keratoacanthoma; meta-analysis; nonoperative; topical.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Conservative Treatment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Keratoacanthoma / diagnosis
  • Keratoacanthoma / therapy*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Diseases / diagnosis
  • Skin Diseases / therapy*