What Ingredient in Sunscreen Causes Cancer?

baby might burn or worse

A recent study from the FDA revealed preliminary evidence that a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate, very common and present in about 40% of sunscreens on the market, may accelerate the development of skin cancer.

Mice were the unlucky subjects of the research. They applied sunscreens containing the specific type of vitamin A to a group of hairless mice and then another sunscreen without the ingredient to another group. Once exposed to UV radiation, the retinyl palmitate group developed lesions and tumors at a much faster rate than the other group.

So what do we do? Look for mineral blockers rather than chemical blockers. A mineral blocker is zinc or titanium oxide will protect against both UVA and UVB rays and they maintain their integrity in direct sun.

If you must use a chemical blocker, go for one with avobenzone which protects against both types of UV rays. Amongst chemical blockers, also stay away from oxybenzone, which might filter the rays, but causes hormone disruption.

A good place to purchase optimal sunscreens, particularly for the face and hands, is the dermatologists’ office. Many now carry sun protection products for all types of uses and they are made especially for sensitive skin and made to provide maximum coverage using mineral blockers. Some minimize the white sheen of zinc for use under make up.

A little late for summer, the FDA is unveiling new sunscreen rating system in October. This new system will require notations regarding UVA and UVB protections and will ban claims of SPF 50 and higher.

Source: Mother Jones, Dr. Michelle Ehrlich, FDA


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