Topical Treatments for Seborrheic Keratosis: A Systematic Review

  • Ma. Celina Cephyr C. Gonzalez
  • Veronica Marie E. Ramos
  • Cynthia P. Ciriaco-Tan
Keywords: seborrheic keratosis, topical, systematic review


Background. Seborrheic keratosis is a benign skin tumor removed through electrodessication, cryotherapy, or surgery. Alternative options may be beneficial to patients with contraindications to standard treatment, or those who prefer a non-invasive approach.

Objectives. To determine the effectiveness and safety of topical medications on seborrheic keratosis in the clearance of lesions, compared to placebo or standard therapy.

Methods. Studies involving seborrheic keratosis treated with any topical medication, compared to cryotherapy, electrodessication or placebo were obtained from MEDLINE, HERDIN, and Cochrane electronic databases from 1990 to June 2018.

Results. The search strategy yielded sixty articles. Nine publications (two randomized controlled trials, two non randomized controlled trials, three cohort studies, two case reports) covering twelve medications (hydrogen peroxide, tacalcitol, calcipotriol, maxacalcitol, ammonium lactate, tazarotene, imiquimod, trichloroacetic acid, urea, nitric-zinc oxide, potassium dobesilate, 5-fluorouracil) were identified. The analysis showed that hydrogen peroxide 40% presented the highest level of evidence and was significantly more effective in the clearance of lesions compared to placebo.

Conclusion. Most of the treatments reviewed resulted in good to excellent lesion clearance, with a few well tolerated minor adverse events. Topical therapy is a viable option; however, the level of evidence is low. Standard invasive therapy remains to be the more acceptable modality.