Recently, there have been reports in the media about the use of CAM treatments for skin cancer called Cansema, also known as black or red salve. Long before the recent media explosion over black salve, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has had a statement released on Cansema since 2012.
Can these products treat cancer?
In 2012, the Therapeutic Goods Administration stated:
“The TGA is not aware of any credible, scientific evidence that black salve, red salve or cansema can cure or treat cancer. In addition there is no evidence that these products can be used to diagnose cancers. In fact, the evidence shows that they will cause skin irritation regardless of whether any malignancy is present.
While some Internet sites contain testimonials supporting the use of these products, the TGA does not consider this to be adequate evidence to support their efficacy.”
What are black salve, red salve and cansema?
Black salve, red salve and cansema are products contain the active ingredient sanguinarine. It is a corrosive product that is used to burn away lesions, like a chemical exfoliant. Cansema is applied to a lesion, but may also damage healthy skin and underlying skin structures, resulting in permanent damage.
There are many alternative and complementary medicines (CAMs) out there for patients to choose from. Skincare and dermatology cannot escape from this fact, and many patients choose to try CAMs for their skin problems. The purpose of this article is not to criticise CAMs. They have very valid and important role to play in holistic, patient centred health care. The wealth of research behind them is growing and more effective CAM treatment protocols are being developed to respond to the health needs of patients that do not fit into the standard system.
Why is Cansema so dangerous?
The TGA recognised that the anecdotal evidence on Cansema is positive. However, the TGA highlights that the problem with Cansema is that as an unregulated drug, it can be easily misused. Two of the greatest concerns are misuse and side-effects.
Whether patients are self prescribing or not, the primary use of Cansema to treat skin cancer is dangerous. Without proper diagnosis, skin cancer is a serious disease: the availability of Cansema allows for mistreatment of a potentially life threatening illness. Patients may not receive the treatment they need for skin cancer, leading to severe disfigurement, malignancies, decreased quality of life and even death.
‘Natural’ products are often marketed as safer alternatives to medical treatments. In truth, they have their own side effects that can be just as detrimental to the wellbeing of patients. Cansema can cause extensive scarring that may not be under your control. Scarring is more than skin deep: it can cause pain, discomfort caused by skin pulled taught and nerve damage. Surgical scars for the treatment of skin cancer also cause scars, but they are often neat and planned to reduce scarring and allow appropriate flexibility to the affected area.
Remember before starting any treatment ask ‘what are the side effects’ and ‘what are the risks’? As a health consumer it is your right to know, and having this information will enable you to make the right decision for your health.
Does Cansema have a place in treating skin disorders?
Black salve is said to have been used for thousands of years in the treatment of skin lesions. However, products today vary in strength and therefore clinical reliability. Cansema may have a place for treating skin disorders and until studies can prove it is a safe skin care product, the TGA will continue to advise individuals to avoid Cansema.
For a free Dermalogica Face-mapping Skin Analysis and to discuss holistic skin care, make an appointment with our skincare nurse Alex. Contact us today.