Skin Bleaching, Hydroquinone, & Mice - Oh My!


I am writing this post to put an END to the myth about hydroquinone causing cancer.


Although this myth is quite popular, it is indeed false. For those of you that don't know, hydroquinone is an organic compound that is formulated into a cream that is available by prescription and in some OTC products. When it is applied topically it can lighten dark patches of skin.

Image from FutureDerm

The claim about hydroquinone causing cancer originated from a study that examined the effects of hydroquinone on mice. In misleading terms, this study reported that after being exposed to hydroquinone the mice developed hepatic and renal tumors. The real results of this study, as explained in an article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, were that hydroquinone was actually protective to the mice by increasing the number of benign liver tumors and reducing the amount of malignant liver tumors. In regards to the claims this study made of renal tumors in mice, Dr. Jacob Levitt, MD, explains that "renal tumors are sex, species, and age specific" and therefore these results cannot be applied to humans.  Furthermore, Dr. Levitt goes on to explain that,

"Systemic exposure to hydroquinone from routine topical application is no greater than that from quantities present in common foods."

Additionally, I read on FutureDerm that according to Dr. David J. Goldberg, a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine,

Image from  Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

"Over 100 scientific articles confirm hydroquinone is a safe topical for humans; no independent studies prove the opposite."



Once again this demonstrates the belief that "natural" products are better than medications is not necessarily true. Don't get me wrong, if I can effectively cure an ailment with a natural or home remedy I am all for it! But I know when medical treatment is necessary versus home treatment. It is scary to see some of the posts people write about treating certain illnesses and conditions without the use of medication. For example, I once read a blog instructing people to use moldy bread as a source of penicillin for when they are in need of an antibiotic. I actually laughed out loud when I read that. While it is comical to read the absurd things people will write about, it is also sad to know that readers are so misinformed. 

Image from FutureDerm

It really is a pet peeve of mine when people treat medications and medical products as the cause of all evil. Because in reality, the majority of products that we apply or come in contact with, whether natural or synthetic, have both benefits and harms. And that is why I am writing this post and other posts like it on the skincare pharmD. I believe that my pharmaceutical background can help people when they hear rumors such as this one about hydroquinone or moldy bread to determine what is a fact and what is false!