I don't have cancer

Last week I went to the dermatologist. I have a few moles, and some of them were looking a little funny. The dermatologist did a full skin exam, and agreed that some of my moles looked funny, and she removed them. About a week later a pathology report confirmed that I have dysplastic nevi, and not melanoma. Yay! Sort of. The literature isn't entirely clear what to make of patients with small numbers of dysplastic nevi---are they at increased risk of melanoma? What is the proper follow up interval? Dermatologists keep a close eye on these buggers, so I'll be visiting her again in the fall.

But I was curious what would happen if I weren't a doctor but simply a "regular patient" armed only with google. I was not pleased with the result of my little experiment.

In searching for information on dysplastic nevi, I immediately found this website. The information itself isn't so bad, but the ads in the middle of the page lead to site's store, where they sell some serious woo.

Product 1: Nevi-no-more soap ($14.95, all emphasis mine):

In the removal of skin moles, proper hygiene is a critical first step: enter Nevi No More Medicated Soap. Published clinical trials demonstrate that the active constituents in Nevi No More are able to impair the growth of human melanoma cells and can effectively remove skin moles and mole like substances.

The paragraphs that follow have similar claims, that a soap can somehow treat moles. They also claim research to back up their insanity, but they give no link. They do however make a laughable claim, invoking a "Dr. Jeffrey Yuen of the Sloan Kittery Hospital". Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is one of the world's premier cancer treatment hospitals. I doubt that any legitimate cancer doc at Sloan thinks that a soap can treat moles or skin cancers, and to suggest otherwise is very, very scary. Melanomas are curable cancers---if caught early. If caught late, they are deadly. If I see a patient who delays diagnosis or treatment of skin cancer because they tried to wash it off, I'm going to be very, very pissed off.

Interestingly, this site doesn't have a Quack Miranda Warning. It might be interesting to see what the FDA has to say.

Folks, please, please don't try to wash away your skin lesions. See a dermatologist.

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I'm sure it works when used as directed and you use the brillo pad enclosed with every order.

See how you feel if the opthomologist tells you that you have (what I presume is a choroidal) nevus in your eye. My brother and I have them. My opthomologist tells me that he has never seen one actually become cancerous, and all that is necessary is that he monitor it. I guess the treatment if it occurs is removal of the eye. Better than the alternative.

Congratulations on the no melanoma result. I had a dysplastic nevus, also now removed too. If this isn't stating the obvious, have your relatives also gotten skin cancer screening? Again, the literature is ambiguous, but relatives of people with dysplastic nevi may be at increased risk of skin cancer. At any rate, I'm guessing that your relatives are also fair and prone to taking their vacations outdoors. Just to be safe, they ought to get checked too.

Hey, my wife is an RN at Memorial Sloan Kettering (or Sloan Kittery as they like to kid the patients). I'm going to ask her to get me some of that soap! Thanks Dr. Yuen, you're a life saver!

Well, you know what they say about dermatology:

If it's wet, keep it dry. If it's dry keep it wet. If it won't go, cut it off.

I'm just kidding of course. An ex-roommate of mine told me that, he was a doctor working on his Masters in Public Health.

"possess anti-tumor properties", "able to impair the growth of human melanoma cells", "proven to defeat and eradicate moles and melanomas"

Oh, but it's not good enough that they convince you to hurt yourself... "the ability to inhibit and kill the herpes virus."

I filled in the FDA report, of course.

-----

I used to fall for woo. It's hard to know who has better data when you don't understand how they come up with it, how they should come up with it, or even what counts as being data. I think people need a better education on general principles of science... but maybe they need to be taught to like learning first.

Fortunately I learned enough about science to form a general bullshit-detector before it caused too serious a problem.

I used to know of a dermatologist who claimed to love his specialism because his patients never got better and never died.

I used to know of a dermatologist who claimed to love his specialism because his patients never got better and never died.

True. And this is no exception. Any skin cancer patient at risk of dying is shipped off to the oncologists and so is no longer the dermatologist's patient (seriously, can you imagine a dermatologist giving interferon and IL2?) And skin cancer patients have to come back for regular surveillance--many get other skin cancers later on--so they aren't cured. It's the perfect racket or will be until we can figure out gene therapy well enough to shove some real DNA repair mechanisms back in the genome.

I think my favorite part is "...mole like substances..."

Like, for example, motor oil? Permanent marker?

Yeah, me too

Glad you don't have cancer. It is a horrible disease. (mom and dad died from it :( ) I witnessed my Mom's boyfriend, a chemist and someone who worked at Los Alamos to help build the atomic bomb during WII, fall for the woo. He ordered this nasty looking stuff off the internet that supposedly cured cancer. (quick google showed that the FDA had made them stop making the claim, so other surrogate sites made the claim) He fell for the usual guff about the drug companies suppressing research blah blah blah...

My mother didn't take the stuff. I am sure that taking the stuff would not have prolonged her life or made her more comfortable. Again glad you don't have cancer.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 05 Sep 2008 #permalink

Good for the no-cancer. Bad for the soap people. Kittering? Really? Maybe it's run by a bunch of fat cats?

We need you to open an investigation on these matters immediately to prevent further violations of basic and human rights violations.

By Aaron Avalos (not verified) on 05 Sep 2008 #permalink

One of the things that was once frequently used to lighten skin was soap and various beauty creams containing mercury, sometimes a few percent. My understanding is that it inhibits the enzyme responsible for the formation of melanin. That would probably make those nevi lighter.

Of course those mercury containing soaps used the "good" natural inorganic mercury, not the "bad" unnatural ethyl mercury.