Is sunscreen safe? FDA study finds chemicals seep into bloodstream

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every day just under 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.  

For years, dermatologists have strongly recommended sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer and protect you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

But could sunscreen be hurting you? 

New research from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found active ingredients in sunscreen seep into the bloodstream through your skin. 

The small pilot study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association.  It included 24 participants instructed to apply one of four different kinds of sunscreen — spray, lotion or cream — four times a day for four days on all areas that wouldn’t be covered by a swimsuit.
Researchers discovered several chemicals in the different sunscreens like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule, entered the bloodstream in just one day at levels high enough to launch a government safety investigation. Three of the ingredients remained in the bloodstream for seven days, according to the FDA.  

“That does make me a little bit concerned,” says Dr. Amy Mason, a dermatologist at the Austin Regional Clinic. “Chemicals inside of our body lasting for several days after application make us really want to know what those effects are going to be in the long run and those studies just aren’t out there yet.” 

The FDA agrees more research is need.

“The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not mean the ingredient is unsafe,” FDA officials wrote in a statement. “Rather, this finding calls for further testing to determine the safety of that ingredient for repeated use.”  

If you are concerned about the ingredients of your sunscreen, Dr. Mason suggests looking for two things. 

“Ultimately, if you want to be the safest you can use one of the physical blocker sunscreens that have Zinc or Titanium in them.” 

She recommends that same kind for kids but says it can sweat off quickly unless you get one that is waterproof. 

Bottom line, Dr. Mason says the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the potential risk.

“At this point, we know sunscreens are very protective and prevent skin cancer and even at the end of the study they say we should continue using sunscreen,” she said.  

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month with skin cancer ranking as the most common type of cancer in the United States.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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