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Anti-Viral drug – Imiquimod cream (Aldara)

Anti-Viral drug – Imiquimod cream (Aldara)

Imiquimod cream is a cancer treatment and is also known by its brand name, Aldara. 

It is a treatment for:

  • basal cell skin cancer (BCC)
  • a skin condition called actinic (solar) keratosis

Basal cell skin cancer (BCC)

Imiquimod cream is approved in the UK for the treatment of superficial basal cell skin cancers measuring up to 2cm across. It can be used on your chest, neck, arms or legs (including hands and feet). It is not approved for a type of BCC called nodular BCC. 

Actinic (solar) karatosis

This skin condition might develop into squamous cell skin cancer, so it is usually treated.


Occasionally, imiquimod is used as a treatment for melanoma skin cancer.

How it works

Imiquimod cream uses your body’s natural defences to help kill the skin cancer cells. It works by releasing a number of chemicals called cytokines. One of these cytokines is called interferon.

Interferon is a protein that the body makes as part of the immune response. Interferon is also used as a cancer treatment. It is thought that imiquimod makes cells produce more interferon which destroys the skin cancer cells.

When you have it

To treat BCC, you usually put imiquimod cream on to the affected area once a day, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. You usually leave the cream on the skin for about 8 hours. You shouldn’t shower or bathe during this time. 

Side effects

We haven’t listed all the side effects. It is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.

How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatment you are having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you are also having other drugs or radiotherapy.

When to contact your team

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:

  • you have severe side effects 
  • your side effects aren’t getting any better
  • your side effects are getting worse

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