Posts falsely claim that rubbing hydrogen peroxide on your skin can treat cancer

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

A video that has been viewed millions of times in posts on Facebook, TikTok and Telegram claims that rubbing a hydrogen peroxide solution on your skin can treat cancer. The messages circulated online in different languages, from English to Malaysian and Croatian. Medical experts and cancer organizations say there is no evidence to support this claim and warn that rubbing hydrogen peroxide on the skin can cause irritation, blistering or soreness. burns.

The one minute and 56 second video was shared on Facebook here by a user based in Malaysia on June 29, 2022.

“Hydrogen peroxide can treat cancer,” reads the Malay text superimposed on the video.

The Malaysian caption of the post translates in English in part to: “Hydrogen peroxide can treat cancer. Just rub once or twice a day on the surface of the skin.”

Screenshot of the misleading post, captured August 11, 2022

The video was shared with a similar claim in Malaysia on the Telegram messaging app here, here and here, where it garnered over 4,900 views.

The footage has been viewed more than 6.5 million times after circulating with a similar claim in English on TikTok and in Croatian on Facebook.

The video in the misleading messages is an excerpt from a nearly three-hour lecture that Charlotte Gerson, daughter of German-born American doctor Max Gerson, gave at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London in 2003.

In the 1920s, Max Gerson developed what he called “Gerson therapy” – a controversial treatment for cancer and other diseases. Scientists have found no evidence that the treatment works, as reported here and here.

The video shared on Facebook starts from the two hour, 41 minute and 46 second mark of the longest footage.

Not a proven cancer treatment

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a light blue, colorless chemical in dilute form with a slightly pungent odor.

“Although low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can be used to disinfect the skin, its use has no role in the treatment of cancer. In fact, high levels of hydrogen peroxide on the skin can cause burns or blisters, and swallowing it can be even more dangerous,” said Dr. Jyoti Patel, a Chicago-based oncologist and editor of the Cancer.net website.

“Some studies have even shown that hydrogen peroxide can allow cancer to thrive,” Patel told AFP.

For instance, this study explains that “several independent lines of evidence” suggest that hydrogen peroxide produced by certain cells may function as “fertilizer” in facilitating tumor growth and metastasis, leading to accelerated aging, damage to the DNA, inflammation and cancer metabolism.

Elise Bonvin, a molecular biology and oncology researcher in Brussels, also told AFP that “although H2O2 has been used for keratosis (not cancer), it is not proven by science [evidence] to my knowledge that H2O2 could be a therapy for cancerr.”

The US National Cancer Institute (NCI), a leading US agency for cancer research, said it also found no evidence to support the claim.

“It does not appear from a search of our resources that the NCI maintains information to support this claim,” its spokesperson told AFP.

Skin hazard

Dermatologists have told AFP that rubbing hydrogen peroxide on a person’s skin can be harmful.

“This statement is false. Hydrogen peroxide is not a cure for cancerous tissue. It can actually inhibit wound healing and destroy healthy cells. In dermatology, we don’t even recommend it for skin care. wounds,” said Dr Lauren Ploch, an American specialist. dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Asked about the consequences of regularly rubbing hydrogen peroxide on the skin, Dr Ploch told AFP: “It depends on the concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Regular use can cause skin irritation. , peeling skin, blisters and/or burns”.

Dr Lidija Kandolf-Sekulovic, a dermatology specialist and oncology sub-specialist in Belgrade, told AFP that there is a small study underway that is investigating whether a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide of 30% could have a positive impact on basal cell carcinoma, a certain type of skin cancer.

But, she said, “it will only be conducted in 2023 and on a small number of patients to see if there is any efficacy in this solution.”

The trial was recruiting participants and expected to complete phase two by March 2023, she said.

The claim was also debunked by UK charity Full Fact and US newspaper USA Today after it was shared in English language publications in January 2022.