Can Retin A Kill You?

retina

Sounds like a headline from the National Enquirer!  After decades of safety of use in millions of patients (including this author!), a recent report has raised some eyebrow when a recent study made some alarming claims.  Relax, you are not going to die, but read on to learn some interesting facts that could affect your health.

Retin A (generically known as tretinoin), a Vitamin A analogue that is a popular acne medication and has been used by physicians to prevent skin cancers, treat wrinkles, and prevent skin aging, has been criticized in a recent study for increasing the risk of death in some patients.

Even though these products have been used safely and effectively for many years, a recent study by Weinstock MA et al, published in the Archives of Dermatology, showed that patients treated in a VA hospital with 0.1% tretinoin topically to prevent skin cancer had a higher risk of death than those not using tretinoin. The veterans in this study were predominately elderly men.

The researchers looked at various factors in the study to try to determine the explanation for the increased number of deaths among tretinoin users. It is difficult to know for sure because the study was not designed to look for risk of death, but it seems that it is smokers who are at greater risk.

This finding goes along with a study looking at an oral form of Vitamin A called isotretinoin that showed that isotretinoin may be harmful to current smokers.

It is important to realize that this is the first sign of a risk of harm from using tretinoin after decades on the market, so this study’s results may not hold up when more testing is done. However, it is prudent to take this advice: If you use tretinoin (retinol, adapalene, tazarotene) or take Vitamin A or beta carotene supplements, please do not smoke. Smoking is known to age your skin prematurely and to cause lung disease and heart disease. It now looks as if using popular anti-aging products in addition to smoking may increase your risk of death.

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Joe Niamtu, III DMD

Cosmetic Facial Surgery

Richmond, Virginia