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Case of Basal Cell Carcinoma: Complications From Self-Treatment With Bloodroot Plant

By: Joseph Cupolo
Posted: Friday, September 4, 2020

Self-treatment of dermatologic conditions, especially those affecting the eye, may not be the most effective approach for both patients and ultimately their physicians. That was the consensus conclusion formed by both, as noted in a case report of a patient’s liberal use of black salve treatment from the bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis), which led to persistent inflammation and persistence of basal cell carcinoma. The case study was published by Andrew J. Rong, MD, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and colleagues in Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

The patient was a 65-year-old woman who presented with a 6-week history of redness, eyelid swelling, and discharge in her right eye. Slit lamp examination revealed right medial canthal erythema with cicatricial lower lid ectropion, retraction, and inferior punctal obliteration. The patient was previously diagnosed with a medial canthal basal cell carcinoma 1.5 years ago, but she opted for self-treatment with black salve, a commonly used naturopathic “cure” for skin cancer. Unfortunately, each application of this salve resulted in increasingly severe periorbital inflammation with eventual eschar formation.

Over time, this self-treatment approach led to cicatricial band formation over the medial canthus. Biopsy revealed confirmation of residual basal cell carcinoma within the cicatricial tissues, and the patient underwent Mohs surgery followed by multistaged reconstruction.

“This case serves as a warning against its use [the North American plant Sanguinaria canadensis, commonly known as bloodroot] for superficial neoplastic disease,” the authors noted.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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