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Gearing up for summer: New caution urged for many popular sunscreens

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Environmental Working Group released their 2010 sunscreen report this week, suggesting that many sunscreen SPF ratings are misleading, and some ingredients—like vitamin-A-related compounds—may actually enhance skin damage and cancer:

“Many sunscreens available in the U.S. may be the equivalent of modern-day snake oil, plying customers with claims of broad-spectrum protection but not providing it, while exposing people to potentially hazardous chemicals that can penetrate the skin into the body,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan. “When only 8 percent of sunscreens rate high for safety and efficacy, it’s clear that consumers concerned about protecting themselves and their families are left with few good options.”

This year, new concerns are being raised about a vitamin A compound called retinyl palmitate, found in 41 percent of sunscreens. The FDA is investigating whether this chemical, when applied to skin that is then exposed to sunlight, may accelerate skin damage and elevate skin cancer risk. FDA data suggest that vitamin A may be photocarcinogenic, meaning that in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the compound and skin undergo complex biochemical changes resulting in cancer. The evidence against vitamin A is not conclusive, but as long as it is suspect, EWG recommends that consumers choose vitamin A-free sunscreens.

Here’s more information, including how to find a better sunscreen for you:

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/782119885/

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