Coal tar in dermatology

J Dermatolog Treat. 2007;18(6):329-34. doi: 10.1080/09546630701496347.


Coal tar is one of the oldest treatments for psoriasis and eczema. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antipruritic and antimitotic effects. The short-term side effects are folliculitis, irritation and contact allergy. Coal tar contains carcinogens. The carcinogenicity of coal tar has been shown in animal studies and studies in occupational settings. There is no clear evidence of an increased risk of skin tumors or internal tumors. Until now, most studies have been fairly small and they did not investigate the risk of coal tar alone, but the risk of coal tar combined with other therapies. New, well-designed, epidemiological studies are necessary to assess the risk of skin tumors and other malignancies after dermatological use of coal tar.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens*
  • Coal Tar / administration & dosage
  • Coal Tar / adverse effects*
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic / etiology
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Eczema / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Phototherapy / adverse effects
  • Phototherapy / methods
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / adverse effects
  • Psoriasis / drug therapy*


  • Carcinogens
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Coal Tar