The Truth About Sunscreens: Do they Really Cause Cancer?

Many of you may have been alarmed by the recent EWG analysis of the findings released by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program. The report gave consumers a real scare, saying that many sunscreens on the market are not good for you, and that the Vitamin A in sunscreens could potentially be carcinogenic.

To quote the report, “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. And apparently only 39 products out of the 500 they examined were considered safe.

Now, in our opinion, while you are understandebly as scared by this report as we were when we watched The Shining, we decided to seek expert commentary on this huge scoop of news. While EWG claims that the FDA knew about this and conducted a study of its own (and reached similar conclusions), the FDA is denying this.

Dr. Ellen Marmur, author of the book Simple Skin Beauty, and Chief of Dermatologic & Cosmetic Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center says that that source of the information in this story is very important. The EWG, no matter how informative of a consumer web site, is not the FDA.

“The safety concerns about cosmeceuticals, such as retinols, and sunscreens/sunblocks are extremely important. But, there is a surprising lack of good science looking at whether these chemicals penetrate our skin or are absorbed into our bodies,” she says.

“The concern that retinoids can increase skin cancer is still unknown. The latest findings are based on mouse studies showing an increase in free radical oxygen molecules in the mouse skin that was treated with retinoids and an increase in skin cancer in the retinoid plus sunscreen group of mice. Yes, this is bad, but there is no way to extrapolate this small animal study onto humans.”

The bottom line? Don’t stop using suncreen! But do stop using the tanning booth.

Charu Suri