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July 2004

Prevalence of Alternative Medicine Use for Skin Conditions in a Primary Care Population

Arch Dermatol. 2004;140(7):892. doi:10.1001/archderm.140.7.892

A recent report found the use of alternative medicine by patients in the United States to be 42%.1 Visits toalternative medicine practitioners exceed visits to primary care physicians.1 A review of alternative medicine use by dermatologic patients cited 7 studies, which reported a lifetime prevalence of 35% to 69%.2 However, only 1 reviewed study examined a US population;none evaluated general medicine patients; and only 1 examined patients with various rather than single conditions. Moreover, fewer than 50% of patientsusing alternative medicine used them exclusively to treat existing conditions. Most were used to prevent future illness.1 Recently,a study of 192 patients with nonmelanoma skin cancer found that 19% currently used alternative therapies for any indication, dermatologic or nondermatologic.3 However, only 2 patients used them for skin cancer.Another recent study of 80 dermatology clinic patients with psoriasis or eczema in England found that 10% of the patients had used Chinese herbal medicines,with ethnic patients overrepresented among users.4

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