SNAKE OIL: Southern Cross University researcher and PhD candidate Andrew Croaker GP and his team analysed 13 black salve products purchased from different online sellers around the world. and found the products were dangerous.
SNAKE OIL: Southern Cross University researcher and PhD candidate Andrew Croaker GP and his team analysed 13 black salve products purchased from different online sellers around the world. and found the products were dangerous. Leigh Jensen/Southern Cross Univ

Skin cancer warning over bogus 'natural' treatment cream

NEW scientific research has found a popular black market skin cancer cream to be dangerous and using it "similar to playing Russian roulette”.

Promoted as an alternative skin cancer therapy, black salve contains both herbal and chemical constituents and its sale is illegal in Australia.

In the first international study into black salve, a Southern Cross University research team analysed 13 products purchased from different online sellers around the world.

Lead author and PhD candidate Andy Croaker, who is a GP, said the findings published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine showed that black salve products were dangerous.

"It's similar to playing a game of Russian roulette with the majority of black salves tested posing a significant risk of harm to patients,” Dr Croaker said.

"Online sellers of black salve tell people it's a safe, effective and natural skin cancer treatment (but) our study finally gives doctors information about what is in black salve so they can further advise their patients why it isn't safe.”

Dr Croaker and his team published an article, Black salve in a nutshell, in the December issue of the Australian Journal of General Practice to aid GPs when discussing black salve with patients.

He said some black salves contained very high concentrations of compounds likely to kill any tissue they came in contact with, putting patients at risk of significant scarring and deformity.

"One salve contained a compound at a concentration over 900 times that needed to kill normal skin cells. Its clinical use would be similar to applying a strong acid to the skin ,” he said.

Dr Croaker, who works at the Sawtell Medical Centre on the NSW Mid North Coast, cautioned against people self-administering black salve.

"DIY may be okay for renovating a house, but DIY skin lesion diagnosis and treatment is foolish,” he said,

Research co-author Dr Lei Liu, from the university's Southern Cross Plant Science research centre, said they assessed the black slaves for heavy metal contamination.

"We found one salve contained high lead levels, posing a further health risk to patients,” he said.



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