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Sunscreen Ingredients May Increase Skin Cancer Risk

Sunscreen Ingredients May Increase Skin Cancer Risk

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. This month, many kids will graduate or finish up their final obligations for the academic year. Families will plan long-anticipated vacations to the beach, mountains, and other favorite destinations where they’ll hopefully get a rest from the stress of daily life.

Before heading out, many will slather themselves and their children with a liberal layer of sunscreen in an attempt to protect against the sun’s harmful rays. But new research shows that ingredients in the sunscreen could actually put you at higher risk for developing skin cancer and other medical issues.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) recently examined several decades worth of scientific research with regard to chemicals found in common household products. They discovered that phthalates, which are used to make plastics parabens found in sunscreen, may be contributing to rising incidence of cancer, reduced fertility and obesity.

Coupled with this disturbing revelation is recent news from researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology which suggests that zinc oxide, an main ingredient of many conventional sunscreens, may actually accelerate skin cancer risk.

Dr. Yinfa Ma, Curators’ Teaching Professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, and his graduate student Qingbo Yang, suggest that when exposed to sunlight, zinc oxide undergoes a chemical reaction that may release unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals seek to bond with other molecules, but in the process, they can damage cells or the DNA contained within those cells. This in turn could increase the risk of skin cancer.

According to Ma, when the zinc oxide nano-particles in the solution absorb the UV rays, the reaction releases electrons, which in turn may produce unstable free radical molecules in the zinc oxide solution. Those free radical molecules then bond with other molecules and act as parasites, damaging the other molecules in the process.

As the Environmental Working Group has documented for years, the Food and Drug Administration is disturbingly silent when it comes to informing of the risk posed by sunscreens and protecting consumers from these potential damaging ingredients. “The U.S. lags far behind Europe, Japan and Australia in providing consumers with high quality sunscreens. The FDA is also slow to evaluate and approve better sunscreen ingredients and allow new combinations, making it impossible for U.S. formulators to achieve the highest level of UVA protection in products (Osterwalder 2009).”

Check out the EWG’s list of  top-rated sunscreens, none of which contain any sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor. Unfortunately most still contain the minerals zinc or titanium, which could be more trouble than they’re worth in light of this new research. As always, the best protecting against the sun is a shirt and hat.

Related Reading:

10 Disturbing Sunscreen Secrets

Vitamin A In Sunscreen Linked To Skin Tumors

Are You A Gardener? Then You Need Sun Protection

Read more: Beauty, Cancer, Conscious Consumer, Health, Skin Care, , , , , , ,

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Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.

41 comments

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9:39AM PST on Jan 24, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:17AM PDT on Jul 30, 2012

I think this a great article on ingredients of sunscreen that more people need to be aware of. I just read another article on the true dangers of sunscreen too @ http://naturalhealthdossier.com/2012/07/sunscreen-snake-oil-of-the-21st-century/. It's definitely worth the read!

6:16PM PDT on May 25, 2012

Thanks for the info!

I wore sunscreen daily for years but usually hated the feel of it and would usually forget to reapply. I never really spent much time in the sun anyway...

But yeah, it's kind of hard to find sunscreens without risky ingredients (I think one of the safer ones that I really like is the Badger brand, which is not sold in many stores). So I've just been skipping sunscreen lately.

These days I have myself trained to wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and layers of clothing when I go out instead of wearing sunscreen. I only apply sunscreen if I know I'll have to be outside for a long time (which is very rare). I also keep the curtains drawn at home. I'm kind of a vampire!

5:36PM PDT on May 16, 2012

I love the sun and love staying in it without protection. I've been doing it for 52 years now and have NO signs of wrinkles or cancer. I use only natural/organic products on my skin. I do not buy the theory that the sun is bad for you.

5:41PM PDT on May 15, 2012

Thanks for the info.

8:21AM PDT on May 15, 2012

Make sure to use vegan and animal-testing-free sunscreen, everyone!

10:10PM PDT on May 14, 2012

Too much exposure to the sun damages your skin - this is a known fact. Staying out of the sun is not an option for most people as a) we need sunlight and b) its nice to go outside. The rest is just a bunch of theory and maybe's and conjecture. Don't let it stop you.

3:49PM PDT on May 14, 2012

As scientific research showed a long time ago, the only true protection is 'barrier' protection, i.e. clothing and hats that do not permit sunlight to pass through them. For example, sunscreen does very little if anything against melanoma, which is the worst form of skin cancer. Sorry, folks, but there is no real alternative to covering up, except for a few minutes to get your vitamin D.

6:55AM PDT on May 14, 2012

Keep out of direct sun light,,I stay in the shade if possible,you don't know what cemical rays the sun is beaming down on us...

6:26AM PDT on May 14, 2012

OK, so most of you are up in arms with this study. I've know that sunscreen has been bad for many years. This is not the first article that has been written about this but to most of you, this is the first time you are reading this so you all of ;you this is new knowledge but it's not new information. I read many articles by different people with different opinions from various magazines, books brochures etc. At the end of the day folks, you need to educate yourself and make an opinion for yourself. I've known for many many years that SPF is a chemical and a KNOWN hormone disrupter. It gets into your blood stream. Anyhow, you all are starting to see more and more people walking with umbrella's in the summer which is a great alternative. Keep an open mind because a closed one will never let you have new information.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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