Sunscreen study raises concern


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The sun has been scarce much of this month of May but we know sunscreen protects us from dangerous rays. Now a recently published study has us asking if sunscreen, itself, is more harmful to you than sun damage?

Many sunscreens absorb those ultraviolet rays and prevent skin damage. But, as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it’s what’s seeping through our skin from sunscreen that’s behind some recent concerning headlines.

“So, I’m from Sydney. The sun is a bit stronger there.” Mendel Slavin may be nearly 10,000 miles from home, but that distance doesn’t stop ultraviolet rays and the potential skin damage they can cause from reaching him in Wilkes-Barre. “Yeah, melanomas and all that nasty stuff,” he said.

So when it comes to protecting his skin, he knows to reach for sunscreen and the higher the SPF the better. Mr. Slavin said, “Slip, slop and slap. That’s what they say in Australia.”

But now the Food and Drug Administration says when you lather up, several sunscreen chemicals are penetrating more than just the top layers of your skin. “What they found is that they got into the blood at higher levels than they initially had been thought,” said Wilkes University Dr. Dana Manning, Pharm.D., R.D., LDN. 

What seeped into study participants’ bloodstream were four chemicals: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. Those chemicals remained in the body for 24 hours. Dr. Manning said, “The study did not however comment on whether or not this particular concentration of sunscreens led to any clinical effects, led to any toxicity or harmful effects for people.”

So what should you do if you have plans to be poolside, at the beach or just enjoying the great outdoors? One option is instead of chemical sunscreens, use mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. “They tend to have a physical blocking effect. They sit on the upper layers of the skin and they don’t sink in and they just reflect the sun back out,” said Dr. Manning.

The FDA recommends more research to evaluate potential consequences of chemical sunscreen. But since the risk of skin cancer is far more established, Dr. Manning offers this advice. “The best sunscreen is the one that you’re able to use and you’re able to use most consistently and most frequently.”

To be clear, Dr. Manning says don’t be afraid to use sunscreen. However, experts do recommend avoiding sunscreen sprays especially with young children to reduce the risk of breathing it in.

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