Question: I've read many accounts online about an alternative therapy of using an herbal "Black Salve" to treat skin cancer, but then I also saw many scary photographs and read many scary stories of disfiguring skin damage from the treatment. What's your opinion? Just say "NO" to Black Salve and alternative cures you see online as skin cancer cures!
Answer: My opinion is firm: When it comes to any type of skin cancer, medical treatment has more than a 90 percent cure rate when lesions are caught early and removed and conventional medicine has an excellent track record in successfully treating skin cancer and restoring health.
In fact, while there may be a genetic predisposition (family history or skin type) to skin cancer, statistics show that 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by long-term, unprotected exposure to the sun's UV rays. Those at highest risk are people with fair skin, blond or red hair, and those with blue, green or grey eyes and workers in outdoor occupations. So skin cancer prevention falls on you for keeping unprotected sun exposure to a minimum and in checking your own skin for suspicious growths and actively having them checked at least once per year by a dermatologic practitioner.
The skin cancer fear factor…
Once cancer is diagnosed, patients can get scared and can fall prey to online cure scams and alternative therapies that can do more harm than good, according to a 2009 FDA release entitled, "Beware of Online Cancer Fraud." "Anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in," said Gary Coody, R.Ph., the National Health Fraud Coordinator and a Consumer Safety Officer with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Regulatory Affairs. "There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure."
Black Salve on the FDA list of Fake Cancer Cures
From what I've read, Black Salve is the most the most widely known alternative therapy you will find online. It is an herbal topical treatment classified as an escharotic which is a substance applied to the skin that causes tissue to die and fall off. The types of Black Salve available on the internet today can be made from ingredients such as zinc chloride, chapparal (larrea tridentata) or bloodroot which are all caustic (or escharotic) to the skin.
The FDA release outlines how the salves are sold online despite being illegal and how they are sold with false promises that they will cure cancer by "drawing out" the disease from beneath the skin. "However, there is no scientific evidence that black salves are effective," says Janet Woodcock, Director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). "Even worse, black salves can cause direct harm to the patient." The corrosive, oily salves "essentially burn off layers of the skin and surrounding normal tissue," says Woodcock. "This is not a simple, painless process. There are documented cases of these salves destroying large parts of people's skin and underlying tissue, leaving terrible scars."
Black Salve does not distinguish diseased from healthy skin.
If you are questioning an alternative cancer cure you see online, check the FDA list, "187 Fake Cancer Cures Consumers Should Avoid."
That being said, I would not recommend desperate attempts at using Black Salve or other alternative therapies once skin cancer has already taken hold, especially since Melanoma is dangerous and can spread. Here's why:
- Alternative therapies have not been medically and scientifically tested for efficacy and safety .
- The use and sale of alternative therapies online is completely unregulated so you cannot be sure the purity or concentration of ingredients you are putting on your skin.
- Alternative therapies can contain unknown compounds with questionable benefit and the potential for great harm and they are promoted on the internet illegally without full consideration or information about potential toxicity.
- With alternative therapies instead of surgical procedures and medically researched treatments, there is a large risk of incomplete tumor removal and tumor growth and metastases (spreading).
- Alternative therapies untested on healthy skin leaves unwary patients open to damage of surrounding healthy tissues and marked scarring with poor cosmetic outcomes
If you think you have a lesion, spot or growth that could be skin cancer, go directly to the dermatologist who will test the tissue via a biopsy and advise you whether the tumor needs to be removed. In cases such as skin cancer, when medical treatment has a high success rate, don't look elsewhere at alternative therapies.
Have you been tempted by Black Salve? Did the online photos scare you away?
Have you (yes, YOU!) had your cancer screenings? I feel like my dog means business when he gives me THAT face, so I thought it would be appropriate for today’s blog on cancer screenings. I know we all become somewhat lax about taking care of ourselves and I am no exception. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder... Cancer Screenings
- yearly mammograms starting at age 40 - clinical breast exams during routine check-ups beginning around age 20
- ★Colon and Rectum
- age 50 for both males and females
- digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) should be done annually for men at age 50 - men at high risk, particularly African American men, should begin testing at age 45
- screening should begin about 3 years after a woman starts having vaginal intercourse - screening should begin in the abstinent by age 2 ...remember (I often need a aide-mémoire myself...) early detection means early cure...so, don’t delay and start screening! - Jodi
In many cases we are not able to say exactly why someone gets cancer. I often find myself wondering...why this person or why that person? Unfortunately, right now, no one can provide a list of things you can do that will guarantee you can avoid getting cancer. However, we do have a list of certain habits both good (to be taken up) and bad (to be avoided) that can help. We all know there are risk factors that you cannot change--your genetics and family history are part of the hand you’re dealt in this game of life. There are, though, dangers we can avoid...they include smoking tobacco, being physically idle and overweight, eating [poorly] too many unhealthy fats and sugars, and exposing your body to excessive doses of ultraviolet light. Some suggestions, then, to help decrease your risk of cancer: -Avoid smoking, and if you currently smoke, quit. The sooner you quit, the better you will feel. -If you are overweight, lose weight. Cutting out the bad stuff isn’t an easy task for any of us, but remember, this isn’t a race: slow and steady makes you a winner. -Get some sort of physical activity--at least 30 minutes a day. -Try to eat healthy as much as possible. Of course we all like to indulge now and then, but try to balance your meals with healthy portions of protein and veggies. -Restrict your time in the sun and use sunscreen. -Keep up with routine cancer screenings and physical exams. These include screenings for breast, colon, rectal, uterine and cervical cancer. The bonus is that in addition to helping you decrease your risk of cancer, making lifestyle changes can also reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you have a family history of a certain disease, screening for a condition earlier may be appropriate. Remember to talk to your practitioner about all lifestyle modifications you embark on. Ask questions! Most importantly, don’t be afraid...early detection means early cure.
Wow...today is the inaugural blog...I don’t really know what to say. I guess, Welcome! Welcome to my blog! I will certainly try to give you my honest opinion, feedback and of course, answers to your skin care concerns and questions. Anything having to do with skin, hair and nails are up for grabs here...so ask away! Additionally, I will try and keep you up to date with the latest news and media reports on dermatology. I hope you enjoy it all! BTW...today is National Croissant Day! In addition to being a skin care guru, I’m also a foodie. At our office, we love to celebrate anything having to do with food. No food holiday goes unnoticed!