Topical imiquimod therapy has been widely used for actinic keratosis (AK). However, some cases are refractory to treatment. Therefore, an indicator that can predict its efficacy is desired. Herein, we retrospectively analyzed 52 AK lesions treated with imiquimod to investigate the characteristics of refractory lesions. Imiquimod was applied in a cycle of three times weekly for 4 weeks, followed by a 4-week break. This treatment cycle was repeated up to three times and treatment responses were evaluated. As a result, a complete response (CR) was observed in 78.8% (41/52) of lesions. Next, treatment response of lesions was correlated with clinicopathological characteristics including clinical morphology and thickness, pathological morphology and thickness, and presence of follicular extension (FE). Of these, lesions with FE were significantly less responsive to imiquimod treatment; while 92.6% of AK lesions without FE achieved a CR, only 64.0% of AK lesions with FE achieved a CR (p = 0.029). Logistic regression analysis revealed that FE was the sole significant predictor of its efficacy (p = 0.019). These results suggest that preliminary histological evaluation of FE may be useful to predict the efficacy of imiquimod for AK.
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