Black salve warning

Alternative medicine promoted for treating skin cancer doesn't work and can in fact cause skin damage.
Learn more

01.Unlicensed product can cause skin damage


A letter in the Medical Journal of Australia (7 April, 2014) warns of unlicensed black salve being used to “cure” skin cancers, with doctors from Queensland’s Princess Alexandria Hospital in Brisbane reporting on a patient who had used black salve on what he thought was a cancerous growth on his skin.

The treatment resulted in a large, blackened hole on the side of his face.

Black and red salve are alternative treatments purported to cure skin cancers, and can be found on the internet. There's no evidence they work.

Made from the plant bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), the salve kills skin tissue – cancerous and healthy. Salves may also contain zinc chloride, another compound that kills skin tissue, and can cause permanent scarring and disfigurement. They’re not only used instead of conventional therapies for treating skin cancer, but may be used when people suspect a cancer, but haven’t had it diagnosed.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration issued a public warning about red and black salves in 2012. People have also used the salve on animals, prompting a warning from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

Dr Gabrielle Caswell, president of the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA), said: “Black salve is a highly corrosive agent and should not be used to treat lesions, or cancer. Black salve is worthless against cancer and the claim to be an alternative skin-cancer 'treatment' is misleading.”

The CPSA recommends that people concerned about lesions and/or skin cancers, should immediately consult a qualified medical practitioner to ensure they are safely treated.

“Skin cancers are a widespread and increasing health problem, particularly in Australia. The use of black salve has the potential to cause many problems including delayed diagnosis and treatment of cancers, with potentially fatal results.”

“It is nothing more than a scam preying on vulnerable people with the potential to cause devastating injury.”



Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments