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Self-Administered Skin Cancer Treatments Reported Unsafe and Inefficient

Online shopping provides easy access to an array of products.  It’s all one-click away from your doorstep. But a recent study shows that people have been using the Internet for more than buying books. People are buying alternative, self-administered skin cancer treatments that could be dangerous to their health.

Seventy-two percent of American adults search the Internet for medical self-help information, 40% looking specifically for complementary or alternative medicines, often for the treatment of skin cancers and mole removal. The topic, recently discussed by Brandon Adler and Adam Friedman, M.D., from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is one of concern. Literature published on the topic shows a lack of safety and efficacy in these modes of treatment.

A recent study reviewed 26 published cases that included online self-administering treatments, such as creams and salves containing the potentially caustic ingredients bloodroot and zinc chloride. Half of the patients in the study were treating basal cell carcinoma while 27% were attempting to remove moles. Researchers found that a staggering 89% of the patients in the literature had poor cosmetic results from their treatments, with 57% of patients reporting scarring and 43% reporting major tissue damage.

The current cure rate for basal cell carcinoma is 95% when treated by dermatology providers and pathologists. It involves safe and quick outpatient surgery with virtually no side effects. The cure rate in the study of self-administered online treatments was only 39% and even that “cure rate” was not without dangerous side effects. Seventy-one percent of patients found temporary resolution and more than 56% of skin cancer patients saw their cancer come back or never go away at all. 

The cosmetic and cure results from self-medicating with alternative treatments are not favorable. Dermatological care professionals must be aware that online treatments are being used for basal cell carcinoma and mole treatments. Many come with dangerous side effects and the FDA has approved of none of the self-help treatments.

Sources: 1, 2

Image: Kruder396

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