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January 1978

Should Therapeutic Coal-Tar Preparations Be Available Over-the-Counter?

Author Affiliations

Redwood City, Calif

Arch Dermatol. 1978;114(1):125-126. doi:10.1001/archderm.1978.01640130083030

To the Editor.—  I should like to take issue with the position of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) on over-the-counter (OTC) coal-tar products as stated in the AAD Bulletin of July-August 1977.Nowhere in the AAD statement is reference made to the review of the world literature by Greither et al1 who found 13 cases of skin cancers in man that were probably induced by prolonged applications of therapeutic tar preparations. All but two patients were men. The most frequent sites of the cancers were the genital areas and the adjacent skin: scrotum, five cases, vulva, one, groin, one, and upper thigh, one. In nine of the cases in which the treatment periods were known, there was a history of prolonged self-medication that ranged from three months to 34 years; it was most commonly used for scrotal pruritus. More recently, Hirohata2 mentions a patient who had been