Cancer Council Victoria statement on Health Complaints Commissioner black salve finding

Friday 10 August, 2018

Cancer Council Victoria welcomes the Health Complaints Commissioner’s finding to permanently ban a Victorian man from providing health services after he convinced a woman that he could treat her cancer using black salve.

There is no evidence of black salve successfully treating any cancer. It is in fact a corrosive substance that burns off layers of skin and surrounding tissue. As a result, it can destroy large chunks of skin and cause heavy scarring. The US FDA lists black salve as a ‘fake cancer treatment’ and in Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration advises consumers not to use black salve.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said the finding is a message to others who may consider misleading people by making claims about life-prolonging cancer treatment without evidence and preying on vulnerable people.

"Victoria’s Health Complaints Act explicitly prohibits people offering health services from claiming that they are able to cure cancer or other terminal illnesses, and requires that any claims they make in relation to treating or alleviating the symptoms of cancer to be substantiated."

Some complementary therapies, like yoga and massage, are generally safe for cancer patients if used under the supervision of their treatment team and may have benefits, however there any many alternative treatments that may in fact harm individuals.

"There have been several high-profile examples of unscrupulous providers charging vulnerable people large sums of money for unproven and even dangerous treatments. We always encourage people to speak to their treating doctor before starting any new treatment," Mr Harper said. 

Mr Harper said that for patients who would like to be part of finding new and more effective cancer treatments, clinical trials provide a safe environment.

"Clinical trials offer patients the opportunity to be part of testing promising new and innovative treatments, but the difference to alternative therapies is that clinical trials are evidence-based and run under close medical and ethical supervision."

To speak to a cancer nurse for free information and support call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

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For more information contact:

Thea Cargill, Media Manager, Cancer Council Victoria, 03 9514 6585, 0429 000 450, thea.cargill@cancervic.org.au