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WASHINGTON (May 24) -- Almost half of the
500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at
which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they
contain vitamin A or its derivatives, according to an evaluation of
those products released today.

AOL
News also has learned through documents and interviews that the Food
and Drug Administration has known of the potential danger for as long
as a decade without alerting the public, which the FDA denies.

The
study was released with Memorial Day weekend approaching. Store shelves
throughout the country are already crammed with tubes, jars, bottles
and spray cans of sunscreen.

The white goop, creams and
ointments might prevent sunburn. But don't count on them to keep the
ultra-violet light from destroying your skin cells and causing tumors
and lesions, according to researchers at Environmental Working Group.

In
their annual report to consumers on sunscreen, they say that only 39 of
the 500 products they examined were considered safe and effective to
use.

The report cites these problems with bogus sun protection factor (SPF) numbers:

  • The use of the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone, which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream.
  • Overstated claims about performance.
  • The lack of needed regulations and oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.

But
the most alarming disclosure in this year's report is the finding that
vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, may speed
up the cancer that sunscreen is used to prevent.
Environmental Working Group


A dangerous additive

The industry includes vitamin A in its sunscreen formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging.

But
the EWG researchers found the initial findings of an FDA study of
vitamin A's photocarcinogenic properties, meaning the possibility that
it results in cancerous tumors when used on skin exposed to sunlight.

"In
that year-long 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.

The
conclusion came from EWG's analysis of initial findings released last
fall by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program, the federal
government's principle evaluator of substances that raise public health
concerns.

EWG's conclusions were subsequently scrutinized by outside toxicologists.

Based
on the strength of the findings by FDA's own scientists, many in the
public health community say they can't believe nor understand why the
agency hasn't already notified the public of the possible danger.

"There
was enough evidence 10 years ago for FDA to caution consumers against
the use of vitamin A in sunscreens," Jane Houlihan, EWG's senior vice
president for research told AOL News.

"FDA launched this one-year study, completed their research and now 10 years later, they say nothing about it, just silence."

On Friday, the FDA said the allegations are not true.

"We
have thoroughly checked and are not aware of any studies," an FDA
spokesperson told AOLNews. She said she checked with bosses throughout
the agency and found no one who knew of the Vitamin A sunscreen
research being done by or on behalf of the agency.

But documents from the FDA and the National Toxicology Program showed that the agency had done the research.

"Retinyl
palmitate was selected by (FDA's) Center for Food Safety and Applied
Nutrition for photo-toxicity and photocarcinogenicity testing based on
the increasingly widespread use of this compound in cosmetic retail
products for use on sun-exposed skin," said an October 2000 report by
the National Toxicology Program.

FDA's own website said the
animal studies were done at its National Center for Toxicological
Research in Jefferson, Ark. And it was scientists from the FDA center
and NTP that posted the study data last fall.

In a perfect world

The
ideal sunscreen would completely block the UV rays that cause sunburn,
immune suppression and damaging free radicals. It would remain
effective on the skin for several hours and not form harmful
ingredients when degraded by UV light, the report said.
National Cancer Institute
Graph
of melanoma of the skin rates from 1975 to 2006. APC stands for annual
percent change and AAPC stands for average annual percent change.


But
in the U.S., there is currently no sunscreen that meets all of these
criteria. European countries have more chemical combinations to offer,
but in the U.S. the major choice is between the "chemical" sunscreens,
which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the
body's hormone systems, and "mineral" sunscreens zinc and titanium
dioxide.

Increasingly, as AOL News reported
in March, the industry is using titanium dioxide that is made
nanosized, which a growing number of researchers believe have serious
health implications.

The sunscreen industry cringes when EWG
releases its yearly report -- this is its fourth. The industry charges
that the advocacy group wants to do away with all sunscreen products, a
claim that is not accurate.

The report's researchers clearly
say that an effective sunscreen prevents more damage than it causes,
but it wants consumers to have accurate information on the limitations
of what they buy and on the potentially harmful chemicals in some of
those products.

EWG does warn consumers not to depend on any
sunscreen for primary protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet
rays. Hats, clothing and shade are still the most reliable sun
protection available, they say.

Don't count on the numbers

Some
of us are old enough to remember when the idea of having a tan was
good, a sign of health, when billboards and magazine ads featured the
Coppertone girl showing off her tan when a puppy pulls down her bathing
suit bottom.

Going for that tan, we coated our kids and
ourselves with sun blockers with sun protection factors of 1 or 2. Some
overly cautious parents might have smeared on a 4 during the hottest
part of a day.

But we've learned of the dangers that come from
exposure to the sun's rays, especially ultraviolet A and B. So today,
drugstore shelves are crammed with sunscreens boasting SPFs of 30, 45,
80 or even higher.

However, the new report says those numbers
are often meaningless and dangerous because products with high SPF
ratings sell a false sense of security, encouraging people using them
to stay out in the sun longer,

"People don't get the high SPF
they pay for," the report says. "People apply about a quarter of the
recommended amount. So in everyday practice, a product labeled SPF 100
really performs like SPF 3.2, an SPF 30 rating equates to a 2.3 and an
SPF 15 translates to 2."

In 2007, the report says, the FDA
published proposed regulations that would prohibit manufacturers from
labeling sunscreens with an SPF higher than "SPF 50." The agency wrote
that higher values would be "inherently misleading," given that "there
is no assurance that the specific values themselves are in fact
truthful..."

This is being widely ignored by the sunscreen makers who are heavily advertising their 80, 90 and 100 SPF products.

"Flouting
FDA's proposed regulation," companies substantially increased their
high-SPF offerings in 2010 with one in six brands now listings of SPF
values higher than 50. "Neutrogena and Banana Boat stand out among the
offenders, with six and four products labeled as "SPF 100,"
respectively," the new report says.

The full list of the best and worst sunscreens can be found on the EWG's searchable database.

Filed under: Nation, Health, Top Stories


rainbow


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I thought they did update it from time to time

jesicca11


Quiet Type
Quiet Type
sh*t. I never knew it. I never even thought about it. I am using suns cream for a year now. I loved that cream, but now!! I don't know what to do. Please suggest me. I live in such a place, where sun is always shining like a fireball in the day time. Very similar like the heat of desert. Now what should i do? If i don't use suns cream, I will become super black. What should i do? please help me.

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GOTHQUEEN

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No you must continue to use sun protection. You just need to take care with the one you choose. The list in the link should give you an idea of the one's that may be better. I use sun protection with zinc/titanium dioxide which offers physical protection. Better still make sure to cover up as well. I know this may be difficult but it will be worth it in the long run when your skin looks better as a result. Ever seen the skin of a sunworshipper. NOt pretty at all !!!

GOTHQUEEN

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I forgot to ask you what sun protection you are using at the moment jessica ?

jesicca11


Quiet Type
Quiet Type
I am using Ponds sun block cream. It sutes me well, its not oily, its not too dry. Perfect for my skin. I have using it for one year now. I am very satisfied with it. But i don't know whether it is harmful or not! Can you tell the ingredients that causes cancer. So i will check those on my cream pack. Thanks GOTHQUEEN. You told me many things that i needed to know.

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rainbow


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I believe they mentioned avoiding anything with vitamin A and it's derivative. I agree that the best line of action is to avoid being in the sun in the first place though

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