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PITTSBURGH (CBS) — Every 60 minutes someone dies from skin cancer in the United States.
Now, some patients are taking matters into their own hands by applying a paste they believe can cure the deadly disease, but opinions are mixed about the unproven alternative treatment called “black salve.”
“The typical ingredients include something called blood root and… zinc,” dermatologist Dr. Kavita Mariwalla said.
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A quick search of the internet produces results showing countless people claiming they use it for everything from getting rid of unsightly mold and other blemishes, to using it to treat skin cancer.
It’s something that has doctors and experts alarmed, but many users singing its praises.
“The skin will die and the tumor will fall out,” one glowing reviewer said.
“I waited four or five days, and basically, the cancer died and it fell out,” said another. “It literally came out.
Dr. Mariwalla says the results aren’t what they seem.
“When you’re using something like black salve, you’re getting this part of the skin cancer off, but you’re actually not removing any of that, and that’s the tissue that you think is superficial,” she said. “But there is this entire portion that is still here, and growing and growing.”
Dr. Mariwalla is a board certified dermatologist, and says while the black salve may appear to remove the spot on the surface the cancer may still very much be under the skin. That’s where it can continue to grow and potentially spread.
“Doing it yourself can be good for certain things around the house,” she said.
However, the same shouldn’t be said for your health, and the Food and Drug Administration couldn’t agree more. The FDA has gone so far as to list black salve, which is typically sold online in paste form, on its list of illegally sold cancer cures.
“You can’t really control the burn that appears from black salve,” Dr. Mariwalla said.
Additionally, it can often be very corrosive, leading to tremendous irritation and scarring that may not be reversible. The American Academy of Dermatology has issued a warning strongly recommending patients do not use black salve for any skin condition, but especially cancer.
“You can use a lot of DIY for other things, but for skin cancer, don’t do it yourself at home,” Dr. Mariwalla said.
Instead, experts say you should see a dermatologist to be treated in a much safer way with a much higher cure rate.