By: Dr. Marc Sorenson, Sunlight Institute–
Should children over the age of six months use sunscreen year-round, even in sunless, cloudy weather? Of course not—but that idea may make $millions for the sunscreen manufacturers.
How convenient for the Skin Cancer Foundation to state, “for adequate protection against melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers and photo-aging, everyone over the age of six months should use sunscreen daily year-round, in any weather.” The Skin Cancer Foundation, of course, was founded by sunscreen manufacturers, which are forbidden by the FDA to claim that their products prevent melanoma. This statement by the FDA belies the claims of the Skin Cancer Foundation: “the available evidence fails to show that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer or premature skin aging. Thus, the anti-aging, skin cancer, and sun damage claims proposed by the comments [of the sunscreen industry] would be false or misleading due to lack of sufficient data in support of these claims.” Dr. Bernard Ackerman, a celebrated dermatologist, has further stated, “…the American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society sold their seals of recommendation to manufacturers of sunscreen, the price being substantial in terms of dollars but incalculable in regard to tarnish of honor.” He continued, “…sunscreen companies pay it [the Skin Cancer Foundation] many thousands of dollars annually in the hope of gaining many millions of dollars in return.”
Sunscreens block UVB and are (supposedly) intended to decrease sun damage to the skin—damage that is said to increase the risk of melanoma. Sunscreen use has increased considerably in the past few decades. Therefore, if sunlight exposure is the cause of melanoma, there should be an accompanying decrease in melanoma. Exactly the opposite has happened. According to Kline & Company, a research group, sales of sunscreens in 1972 were $33 million; in 2008, sales were $650 million. In addition, according to the Fredonia Market Research Group Company, the sale of sunscreens used in cosmetics in 2007 was $130 million. Therefore, the total sales of sunscreens as of 2007 were $780 million. Considering that a dollar’s value is only about 20% of what it was in 1972, the adjusted 2008 sunscreen expenditures are approximately $156 million, or about 4.7 times the 1972 figure. In other words, sunscreen use has increased by about 4.7 times. Population has also grown from 210 million in 1972 to 305 million in 2008—a 50% increase. Adjusting for population growth, it can be concluded that per-capita sunscreen use has at least tripled in the time frame being considered—the figure may actually be much higher. It is counterintuitive then, to state that sunscreen use prevents melanoma.
Consider the following: Melanoma incidence, according to the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) has increased steadily and exponentially since 1935. Sunscreen use, as just explained, has also increased. Therefore, the data on increasing sunscreen use does not indicate that sunlight exposure increases the risk of melanoma; rather, it indicates that sunscreen use may contribute to the increase in melanoma. It has been shown that an SPF 15 sunscreen will decrease sun-stimulated vitamin D production by 99.5%, and it has been suggested that by blocking only UVB light (which stimulates the production of vitamin D in skin) while leaving UVA unblocked, sunscreens ironically may lead to UVA damage of DNA, leading to melanoma.  Increasing melanoma rates, coupled with increasing use of sunscreens, lends credence to that hypothesis. Vitamin D also provides photoprotection (protection against sun damage) by facilitating DNA repair. We gain nothing by eliminating vitamin D production through sunscreen use.
So why should the Skin Cancer Foundation make such a ludicrous statement? The answer is this: follow the money.
 The Skin Cancer Foundation’s “Guide to Sunscreen” http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/the-skin-c…
 Proposed Rules, Federal Register # 165 2007;72: 49070.
 A Bernard Ackerman, The sun and the “epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth! 2008
 Kline & Company’s Cosmetics & Toiletries USA Annual Service (1972 and 2008 editions).
 Fredonia market research group report, 2009.
Melanoma International Foundation, 2007 Facts about melanoma. Sources: : National Cancer Institute 2007 SEER Database, American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures, The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology.
 Matsuoka LY, Ide L, Wortsman J, MacLaughlin JA, Holick MF. Sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 1987; 64:1165-68.
 Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? Am J Public Health 1992;82(4):614-5.
 Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED. Rising trends in melanoma. An hypothesis concerning sunscreen effectiveness. Ann Epidemiol 1993 Jan;3(1):103-10.
 Mason R, et al. Photoprotection by 1_,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and analogs: Further studies on mechanisms and implications for UV-damage. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 121 (2010) 164–168.
By: Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute–
It is undeniable that sunscreen use has profoundly increased in the past few decades, and in spite of that increase, the incidence of melanoma (CMM) continues to climb in the US. A new report, actually a clinical review in the Journal or the American Board of Family Practice, comes to the following conclusions:
- “Despite the availability and promotion of sunscreen for decades, the incidence of CMM continues to increase in the U.S. at a rate of 3% per year.”
- There currently is little evidence that sunscreens are protective against CMM.
- A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen does not significantly decrease the risk CMM, and may actually increase the risk of both CMM and sunburns.
The author of the report, Dr. Margaret Planta, also notes that the environmental protection Agency (EPA), states that “there is no evidence that sunscreens protect you from malignant melanoma.”
The Melanoma International Foundation has (MIF) has stated, “Melanoma is epidemic: rising faster than any other cancer and projected to affect one person in 50 by 2010, currently it affects 1 in 75. In 1935, only one in 1500 was struck by the disease.” In other words, as sun exposure has dramatically decreased, melanoma has exponentially increased. Quite obviously, the use of sunscreens has been one reason for the decrease in sunlight exposure. Consider this: if UVR exposure is the cause of CMM as stated by the IMF, there should be a concomitant decrease in melanoma as sunscreen use has increased. However, according to Kline & Company, a research group, sales of sunscreens in 1972 were $33 million; in 2008, sales were $650 million. In addition, according to the Fredonia Market Research Group Company, the sales of sunscreens used in cosmetics in 2007 were $130 million. Interestingly, the MIF suggests that we must do a better job of teaching people to avoid the sun. Isn’t there something terribly wrong with that reasoning?
Sunscreen is a big business that is of no real value to anyone but those who sell it. Follow the money and you will see the reason for the continuing promotion of sunscreens. So hats off to Dr. Planta, who has done her part to expose the sunscreen swindle. After her analysis, she states … “providers may need to alter their advice regarding sunscreen use for CMM prevention.”
 Margaret B. Planta, MD Sunscreen and Melanoma: Is Our Prevention Message Correct? J Am Board Fam Med 2011;24:735–739.
 United States Environmental Protection Agency. Sunscreen: The Burning Facts. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/doc/sunscreen.pdf.
 Melanoma International Foundation, 2007 Facts about melanoma. Sources: : National Cancer Institute 2007 SEER Database, American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures, The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology.
 Kline & Company’s Cosmetics & Toiletries USA Annual Service (1972 and 2008 editions).
 Fredonia market research group report, 2009.
By: Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute–
In the rush by dermatologists and sunscreen companies to demonize sunlight exposure as the universal cause of skin cancers, there has been a total disregard for another factor that strongly protects against or strongly promotes skin damage. That factor is what we eat. Nutrition, according to whether it is healthful or noxious, can have either profoundly positive or negative influences on the skin.
As an example, polyphenols are antioxidant phytochemicals that prevent free-radical damage and thus protect the skin. Polyphenols are prevalent in foods such as nuts, seeds, onions, green tea, pomegranates, apples, berries, cherries and other fruits, grape seeds, as well as vegetables and dried legumes. They also exist in such nutrients as resveratrol and silymarin (milk thistle extract). These nutritional superstars are able to reduce inflammation, quench oxidative stress and thereby prevent free-radical damage to DNA, inhibit immunosuppression, and diminish dysregulation of cellular signaling pathways, thereby reducing the potential for skin cancers.[i],[ii]
Particularly interesting is the fact that green tea extract and other polyphenol-containing products such as grape-seed proanthocyanadins, have been shown to inhibit the formation of skin tumors. Two researchers, writing in the Archives of Dermatological Research, made the following conclusion after a thorough review of literature regarding polyphenols and skin cancer: “Based on the epidemiological evidence and laboratory studies conducted using in vitro and in vivo systems, it is suggested that routine consumption or topical treatment of these polyphenols may provide efficient protection against the harmful effects of solar ultraviolet radiation in humans.”2
We might conclude that protective nutrition would include the consumption of several glasses of green tea daily, some dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and other deep greens, and the daily habit of eating dark berries, cherries and other such fruits. But there are other vegetables involved in the fight against skin cancer.
Some of the best skin protectants are tomatoes, which contain the antioxidant lycopene. One investigation showed that among individuals who consumed forty grams of tomato paste daily for ten weeks, sunburn-resistance time increased by 40%,[iii] and other research demonstrated that eating other tomato-based products correlated to significantly reduced risk of sunburn after exposure to ultraviolet radiation.[iv] And it is also known that individuals with the lowest intake of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and lycopene (all carotenoid antioxidants found in such vegetables as carrots and tomatoes) had a 50% increased risk for melanoma.[v]
And what are factors that have negative influences on the risk of skin cancer? Alcohol consumption is one such factor; research indicated a 250% increased melanoma risk among those who consumed two or more alcoholic drinks per day.[vi] There are at least two other negative dietary aspects that correlate to increased skin-cancer risk: first, the highest dairy-product consumption has also been shown to correlate to a 2 ½ times increase in risk of developing a squamous-cell carcinoma (common skin cancer, not melanoma).[vii] Secondly, the types of fats we consume are exceptionally important. In my book, I have discussed and documented this topic thoroughly, but suffice it to say that the types of fats we consume in junk foods are deadly, both for overall health and for skin cancer. They are filled with free-radical molecules that wreak havoc on the skin; if we eat such fats without massive quantities of colorful fruits and veggies, we will be much more susceptible to skin damage and potential cancer.
To summarize: to the extent that sunlight causes skin damage, it does so due to lack of proper nutrients in the diet, and there is little doubt that there will be some damage caused by sun exposure without proper nutrition. Even vitamin D, which protects against so many cancers (including skin cancer), will not be able to completely overcome the deleterious effect of the “suicide diet” that most of us consume.
[i] Afaq F, Katiyar SK. Polyphenols: Skin Photoprotection and Inhibition of Photocarcinogenesis. Mini Rev Med Chem 2011 Oct 28. [Epub ahead of print]
[ii] Afaq F, Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms. Arch Dermatol Res 2010;302:71.
[iii] Stahl, W. et al. Dietary Tomato Paste Protects against Ultraviolet Light–Induced Erythema in Humans. J Nutr 2001;131:1449-51.
[iv] Aust, O. et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2005;75:54-60.
[v] Millen A. et al. Diet and melanoma in a case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13:1042-51
[vi] Bain, C. et al. Diet and melanoma. An exploratory case-control study. Ann Epidemiol 1993;3:235-38.
[vii] Hughes, M. et al. Food intake and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in a community: The Nambour skin cancer cohort study. Int J Cancer 2006; online publication ahead of print.
According to Dr. Sujata Udeshi, 98% of her patients present with deficiencies of either vitamin D or vitamin B12, which she attributes to lack of sunlight exposure, the use of sun blocks and the consumption of processed foods. And interestingly, she recommends that sunlight exposure takes place between the hours of 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, exactly the time of day that the sunscare practioners tell us to avoid sunlight. It is good to see more health practitioners suggesting reasonable sun exposure.
By Dr. David Jockers–
Before you lather up with sunscreen for a long day outside you should look at what is actually in the bottle. These lotions contain chemical mixtures that have been proven to block UVA & UVB radiation exposure and prevent sunburn. These chemical cocktails are now linked to serious health consequences including an increased risk of cancer. Natural strategies allow us to optimize sun exposure without chemical toxins and to boost our health.
The sun provides our body with an essential stress through its UV radiation. This UV radiation stress signals a molecule on the skin (7-dehydrocholesterol) to convert to the active form of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in the body. Vitamin D3 synthesis depends upon UVB radiation, which effectively penetrates only the epidermal (outer) layers of the skin.
Vitamin D deficiency is a current epidemic in our society today affecting 90% of our world`s population. According to Vitamin D expert Michael Holick, `We estimate that vitamin D deficiency is the most common medical condition in the world.` It is clear that most people are not getting enough healthy sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risk of virtually every form of cancer including skin cancer, cardiovascular disease and immune insufficiencies.
Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that has always been associated with excessive sun exposure. However, many recent studies have shown that individuals wearing sunscreen had a higher likelihood of getting melanoma. Additionally, melanoma patients with increased levels of sun exposure were less likely to die than other melanoma patients. Patients, who already had melanoma and a lot of sun exposure, were prone to a less aggressive tumor type.
Due to worries over excessive sun exposure many people choose to lather up with sunscreen. In 2007 the FDA admitted that they “are not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer recommends clothing, hats and shade as primary barriers to UV radiation. They have written that “sunscreens should not be the first choice for skin cancer prevention and should not be used as the sole agent for protection against the sun.”
Up to 30% of the sunscreens on the market contain a form of Vitamin A that may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions. The industry uses retinyl palmitate in its formulas because it is an anti-oxidant that enhances skin health. Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin A can cause excessive skin growth (hyperplasia) and that sunlight can damage the anti-oxidant and cause it to form harsh free radicals that damage DNA.
Other toxins found in common sunscreens include:
Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone) Cinnamates
PABA esters Salicylates Digalloyl trioleate
Menthyl anthranilate Avobenzone
All of these ingredients are highly toxic to our skin and bodies. They produce rampant amounts of free radicals that create an excess of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a potent carcinogen that causes genetic mutations. These chemicals are highly estrogenic in that they mimic the effects of estrogen within our body and cause hormonal disruptions that increase cancer cell formation.
Natural sun screen protection comes from tropical oils such as coconut, eucalyptus, jojoba, & shea butter. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide when applied appropriately are powerful protectants from the damaging effects of too much sun. It is always advisable to wear hats and other clothing if you know you are going to spend an excessive time in the sun. Apply aloe vera and/or coconut oil on any area that is overexposed to help ease the pain and nourish the skin. Both of these sources support the skin microflora and harmonize the healing process.
MUMBAI: Growing awareness about the dangers of prolonged exposure to sunlight has made sunscreens a routine for most people. However, few know sunscreens themselves could be a serious source of allergy and cause more harm than the sun itself.
For instance, Ruchita Kura, a class IX student of a Dadar school, broke into rashes every time she stepped out of her house. But recently, added to the rashes were swollen cheeks. A thorough examination in Delhi last week revealed she was allergic to para-aminobenzoic acid, a common ingredient in sunscreens.
A sunscreen could be responsible for 1% of skin allergies; dermatologists believe many people are allergic to them but unaware of it. “Most common triggers are fragrance, preservatives or chemicals in a sunscreen lotion,” said skin specialist Dr Sudhir Medhekar from GT Hospital. Studies have shown that compounds such as oxybenzone and dioxybenzone in sunscreen lotions are often associated with allergies.
“Women who use cosmetics regularly can be vulnerable as they are likely to contain sunscreen,” said Dr Asha Pherwani, allergy specialist at PD Hinduja Hospital. “Certain medications can also make an individual prone to solar allergy or sunscreen allergy.”
Experts say it is important to determine which form of sunscreen an individual is allergic to. Sunscreens contain chemical absorbers to absorb UV rays. Sunblocks, which reflect sun rays, are more likely to have zinc or potassium that can cause irritation.
Dr Pherwani, however, said people prone to allergies need not completely stop using sunscreens. “They can go for a detailed examination like a patch test. We can test the ingredients of the sunscreen for allergy-causing chemicals and a person can avoid using products containing them.”
Poppy Brett thought she would just have to accept that her son Jago didn’t have the energy to keep up with his friends, didn’t like playing football and always seemed tired.
Their GP could find nothing wrong with him: he slept 12 hours a night and had a healthy diet. It never occurred to his mother that the factor 25 sun cream she slathered on him in the summer might be to blame for his exhaustion.
But a year ago a blood test revealed that Jago, 11, was severely deficient in vitamin D — vital for maintaining healthy bones and a well-functioning nervous system. Our bodies must have direct sunlight to produce it.
Twelve months on, after taking supplements and having more exposure to the sun, Jago is a different boy. The lethargy has gone — he loves playing in the park with his friends.
Gone, too, are the pains in his legs that would often cause him to wake in the night in agony. They had been dismissed as growing pains.
‘I never thought in a million years that his tiredness could be down to a lack of sun,’ says Poppy, 41, a charity fundraiser from Bristol. ‘When camping in Cornwall, I’d cover Jago in sunscreen the moment the sun came out.’
Poppy first went to the GP about Jago’s leg pains when he was seven, but the doctor simply showed him some stretching exercises. When this failed to have any effect, she went back to the GP twice, but the only suggestion was that he should get more sleep.
‘It was utterly frustrating trying to get anyone to take me seriously,’ says Poppy. ‘Jago looked tired all the time, but they just told me to put him to bed earlier, which was crazy as he was sleeping 12 hours a night.
‘I suggested it might be related to his dust-mite allergy, so they suggested I vacuum the house more!’
In February last year, Jago burst into tears at the side of a swimming pool because he felt so unwell. Poppy marched back to the GP and demanded a blood test.
‘I said: ‘‘Look, there must be something wrong with him. Please can you test his blood?’’ It seemed a good place to start.’ And she was right.
The results showed Jago’s vitamin D level was a quarter of what it should have been — this result was so worrying that the GP arranged for his legs to be X-rayed to check he didn’t have the bone-softening disease, rickets. Fortunately, he didn’t.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in promoting the absorption of calcium into the gut, which is key for maintaining healthy bones and normal muscle and nerve activity.
It is measured by its concentration in the blood. A count of 70 to 150 means there is a good store of it. At 50 to 70, levels are insufficient; at 50 they are deficient; and at less than 25 severely deficient. Jago’s count was just 24.
Severe deficiency can cause rickets, convulsions and heart failure in young children and adolescents, says Dr Jeremy Allgrove, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at Barts and the London Children’s Hospital. He is one of Britain’s leading experts on vitamin D deficiency.
Dr Allgrove says there is increasing evidence to show that vitamin D has an important effect on children’s immune systems, protecting against TB, asthma and other viral infections.
In adults, a deficiency may cause an increased incidence of diabetes, coronary heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Despite its importance for our health, up to half of those with white, northern European skin and up to 90 per cent of Britons with Asian or Afro-Caribbean backgrounds may be deficient, mainly because we can’t make it from sunshine in this country between October and March. The darker your skin, the harder it is to make.
But there are still no formal government guidelines on the amount children should have.
‘Unspecific’ symptoms of deficiency include lethargy, leg pain, eating issues and mood swings, but these are often missed by GPs.
Every parent has had it drummed into them to apply high-factor sun screen on their children’s delicate skin in the spring and summer, but Dr Allgrove says this is worsening the problem of vitamin D deficiency.
‘This is the one vitamin you can’t get in adequate quantities from your diet,’ he says.
‘The problem is that even low-factor sunscreens will absorb all the ultraviolet light you are exposed to that you need to make vitamin D.
‘I am not suggesting that sunscreen shouldn’t be used. But in my view its use has gone too far.’
He recommends allowing a small amount of sun exposure — apply sun cream after 15 minutes in the sunshine for pale-skinned children and up to an hour for darker-skinned children.
Lucia Decermic, 40, from West London, is another mother whose child’s vitamin D deficiency were not recognised by her GP.
She had to dose her five-year-old daughter Senka with Calpol three times a week to cope with her leg pain. Senka also had eating problems, often managing only a mouthful of cereal for breakfast.
Like Poppy, Lucia feels let down by her GP because she had to take matters into her own hands. When a locum suggested Senka had her legs X-rayed at Hammersmith Hospital, Lucia instead queued up for a blood test.
She had heard about another child with vitamin D deficiency and wondered if this might be the case with Senka.
She was right. Senka was significantly deficient in vitamin D, with a level of 49. ‘It seems ludicrous that GPs are still not fully informed about something as simple as vitamin D deficiency,’ says Lucia, who runs her own events management business.
‘It’s unacceptable to be told your daughter has growing pains with no offer of a solution. I had to resort to medicating her with painkillers and then sit helplessly listening to her scream until the pain subsided.
‘How many parents are going through this?’
Senka has been taking a vitamin D supplement for just three weeks. Remarkably, her leg pain levels have subsided and she is eating well.
Dr Allgrove says eating problems are a common symptom of vitamin D deficiency, probably because children at such a low ebb can’t face food.
He says GPs are beginning to wake up to vitamin D deficiency. Guidelines about testing and medication have recently been issued to surgeries by Barts and the Royal London Hospital. Millie Barrett of Key Nutrition, a London-based clinical nutrition consultancy, says she is seeing an increased awareness of the issue.
‘Every patient whose vitamin D status I have tested has been insufficient or deficient. These are not isolated cases,’ she says.
She advises mothers to ask their GP for a blood test or see a registered nutritional therapist, who will arrange a test for £40.
‘If one member of your family has been diagnosed with low or insufficient levels of vitamin D, it is likely the rest of the family will also be deficient because they are subject to the same influences.’
Tested or not, in Dr Allgrove’s view everyone should take vitamin D supplements.
He ADVISES 400 ius (international units in which vitamin D is measured) a day for babies, 1,000 ius a day for children and adolescents, and 1,000 to 2000 ius a day for adults.
Vitamin D supplements are vital for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, and those who cover up for religious reasons.
Dr Allgrove says it is almost impossible to take too much. When deficiency is detected, the doses prescribed are far higher: 3,000 ius for infants; 6,000 ius for children aged six months to 12 years; and 6,000 to 10,000 ius for adolescents and adults.
Treating Jago’s vitamin D deficiency has had a transforming effect on him, says Poppy.
‘Before, when we went to the park I felt as if I was pulling a tired boy along behind me who didn’t want to be there.
‘For years I just thought my son was just not a child who was full of energy and life. How wrong I was. He’s got so much buzz about him now. He is a new boy.’
A 12-year-old girl with vitamin D deficiency has been told that her condition could have been caused by using strong sun cream.
Tyler Attrill used factor 50 cream which, according to her consultant, could have deprived her of the essential vitamin and caused the bone disease rickets.
BBC Breakfast’s resident GP Rosemary Leonard gave her advice for sun exposure.
By Andrew Schneider
WASHINGTON (May 24) — Almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives, according to an evaluation of those products released today.
AOL News also has learned through documents and interviews that the Food and Drug Administration has known of the potential danger for as long as a decade without alerting the public, which the FDA denies.
The study was released with Memorial Day weekend approaching. Store shelves throughout the country are already crammed with tubes, jars, bottles and spray cans of sunscreen.
The white goop, creams and ointments might prevent sunburn. But don’t count on them to keep the ultraviolet light from destroying your skin cells and causing tumors and lesions, according to researchers at Environmental Working Group.
In their annual report to consumers on sunscreen, they say that only 39 of the 500 products they examined were considered safe and effective to use.
The report cites these problems with bogus sun protection factor (SPF) numbers:
- The use of the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone, which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream.
- Overstated claims about performance.
- The lack of needed regulations and oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.
But the most alarming disclosure in this year’s report is the finding that vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, may speed up the cancer that sunscreen is used to prevent.
A dangerous additive
The industry includes vitamin A in its sunscreen formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging.
But the EWG researchers found the initial findings of an FDA study of vitamin A’s photocarcinogenic properties, meaning the possibility that it results in cancerous tumors when used on skin exposed to sunlight.
“In that yearlong study, tumors and lesions developed up to 21 percent faster in lab animals coated in a vitamin A-laced cream than animals treated with a vitamin-free cream,” the report said.
The conclusion came from EWG’s analysis of initial findings released last fall by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program, the federal government’s principle evaluator of substances that raise public health concerns.
EWG’s conclusions were subsequently scrutinized by outside toxicologists.
Based on the strength of the findings by FDA’s own scientists, many in the public health community say they can’t believe nor understand why the agency hasn’t already notified the public of the possible danger.
“There was enough evidence 10 years ago for FDA to caution consumers against the use of vitamin A in sunscreens,” Jane Houlihan, EWG’s senior vice president for research, told AOL News.
“FDA launched this one-year study, completed their research and now 10 years later, they say nothing about it, just silence.”
On Friday, the FDA said the allegations are not true.
“We have thoroughly checked and are not aware of any studies,” an FDA spokesperson told AOL News. She said she checked with bosses throughout the agency and found no one who knew of the vitamin A sunscreen research being done by or on behalf of the agency.
But documents from the FDA and the National Toxicology Program showed that the agency had done the research.
“Retinyl palmitate was selected by (FDA’s) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for photo-toxicity and photocarcinogenicity testing based on the increasingly widespread use of this compound in cosmetic retail products for use on sun-exposed skin,” said an October 2000 report by the National Toxicology Program.
FDA’s own website said the animal studies were done at its National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Ark.
By Jed Shlackman
As summertime approaches and residents and visitors flock to South Florida beaches and swimming spots there are more hazards present than oil slicks, alligators, or sharks in the water. Naturally, the risk of sunburn increases during summer months. This leads many to cover their exposed skin with various sunscreen products, believing that these protect the skin from harm. However, research publicized by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has shown that most sunscreens may present more harm than benefit. Skin cancer rates continue to rise and sunblocks fail to prevent long-term damage from the UV light exposure associated with skin cancers. Furthermore, many sunscreens contain hormone disruptors and Vitamin A derivatives that can foster skin cancers when applied topically and exposed to the sun. The Food And Drug Administration’s research has exposed the danger of Vitamin A compounds in sunscreens yet the agency failed to alert the public to this hazard or take action against the use of these compounds in sunscreens. The FDA has acknowledged that SPF factors reported by sunblock makers are often misleading, yet the manufacturers continue to include these misleading numbers on their products.
In the EWG’s annual report on sunscreens only 39 of 500 products tested were deemed safe and effective for consumers to use. None of the sunscreens widely sold in the USA are considered ideal by the EWG, as an ideal sunscreen would have to completely block harmful UV wavelengths, remain effective on the skin for several hours, and not break down into harmful chemicals when exposed to sunlight or other elements. In light of these findings consumers may want to consider traditional methods of sun protection – clothing, hats, umbrellas, natural shade, and avoiding exposure during mid-day hours. Good nutrition and anti-oxidant supplementation are also helpful in preventing and repairing damage caused by excessive sun exposure. Exposure to sunlight is healthy in moderation, so we can learn to manage our sun exposure to gain the benefits of sunlight (such as Vitamin D) while minimizing the hazards of being exposed for too long. So far, efforts to use chemicals on the skin to prevent sun damage seem to have backfired, as they’ve merely suppressed nature’s warning to us that we’ve been in the sun too long, offering a false sense of protection.