Though May’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month has come to a close, protecting skin from sun exposure should still be emphasized throughout the summer months. Sunscreen has recently come under fire for containing certain chemicals, but researchers have shown the benefits far outweigh the possible risks.
According to Time magazine, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) research showed that retinyl palmitate, an ingredient derived from Vitamin A that is found in many sunscreens, may actually increase the risk of skin cancer. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has suggested avoiding all products that use the ingredient, and even sent a letter to the FDA earlier this month asking for more stringent sunscreen regulations.
However, Robin Schaffran, a leading dermatologist in Beverly Hills, wrote in an article for prweb.com that the FDA research, conducted on animals, might not be accurate in relation to human use. Schaffran said the study applied large amounts of the ingredient to rats’ skin and then exposed them to “high doses of UV radiation,” yet sunscreen only uses small amounts of the ingredient. Retinyl palmitate is also found in products such as the anti-aging cream Retin-A, yet harmful side effects in humans have yet to be recorded, Schaffran wrote.
The EWG has also raised concerns over the safety of another chemical: Oxybenzone. According to the EWG, this ingredient could cause hormone disruption or cancer.
Schaffran also dismissed these claims, writing, “(It’s) equally likely that a small amount of this ingredient poses no health risks to humans,” and she maintained that sunscreen is “an important preventative measure” against serious skin cancers.
According to the Dean Hedstrom Foundation for Melanoma Awareness website, the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, “claims the life of one American almost every hour,” providing further evidence for the importance of wearing sunscreen daily.
Despite concerns, sunscreen usage should remain a habit, especially during the summer. According to the Dean Hedstrom Foundation, “People who have had one or more severe, blistering sunburns as a teenager have an increased risk of skin cancer as an adult.” With proper use and application, sunscreen has the ability to prevent such burns and significantly lower such risks.
For those still unconvinced that the benefits of wearing sunscreen outweigh the dangers, many zinc-based and mineral-based sunscreens do not include the ingredients in question, according to Schaffran.
Yes, sunscreen may contain small doses of potentially harmful chemicals, but the dangers associated with not wearing the time-tested product could be much greater.
Tara Petzoldt is a junior majoing in political science.