Commentary

How Sunscreen Could Be Causing Skin Cancer, Not The Sun

How Sunscreen Could Be Causing Skin Cancer, Not The Sun

Summer may be a long way off, but it’s never too early to start thinking about protecting your skin. For most people, this means covering themselves in sunscreen, which corporate marketing campaigns encourage at every turn. Yet, while we do indeed need protection to prevent sunburns, blocking out the sun entirely is not ideal. Rich in vitamin D, it offers a number of other health benefits, including, oddly enough, cancer prevention. We’ve been made to fear the sun, and, as a result, adults and children are choosing to drench themselves in a bath of toxic, hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Science has long shown that what we put on our skin ends up in our bodies, and quickly. Multiple studies from across the world have examined sunscreen in particular, evaluating its ingredients and how it penetrates and absorbs into the skin after application. One study, conducted at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Manitoba, Canada, sought to develop a method for quantifying common sunscreen agents. Results demonstrated a significant penetration of all sunscreen agents into the skin, meaning all of these chemicals are entering multiple tissues within the body. (source)

Conversely, a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed a significant drop in hormone-disrupting chemicals that are commonly found in personal care products after participants switched to ‘cleaner’ products. These chemicals include oxybenzone, triclosan, parabens, phthalates, and more. You can read more about that and access the study here. All of these ingredients are found within most poplar sunscreens.

So, the next question becomes, are the ingredients used to make sunscreen, which are entering into our bloodstream, something to be concerned about? The science given to us by the corporations who profit from the sale of sunscreen says no, but I think by now we have established how trustworthy such corporately-funded ‘science’ is. It wasn’t long ago that Johnson & Johnson, for example, was found guilty of knowingly putting a cancer-causing baby powder on the market. You can read more about that here.

This is precisely why we wanted to bring attention to an article published by the Huffington Post titled “Excuse Me While I Lather My Child In This Toxic Death Cream.” In it, mother Sarah Kallies shares how exhausted she feels trying to navigate today’s world and do the best for her children when everything, everywhere, seems to be killing us. For every purchase she makes for her children, there is science telling her it’s great on the one hand and toxic on the other, and so she highlights how confusing the consumer marketplace has become. We are dished a wealth of information that differs from source to source, on a variety of different topics, making it difficult to make even the simplest of choices without second-guessing ourselves.

Yet we know the various chemicals found within sunscreens are toxic, and we know that our skin absorbs whatever we put onto it. Below are a few examples of these chemicals:

Oxybenzone

This could in fact be the most troublesome ingredient found in the majority of popular sunscreens. Used because it effectively absorbs ultraviolet light, it’s also believed to cause hormone disruption and cell damage, which could promote cancer.

According to the Environmental Working Group:

Commonly used in sunscreens, the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions. Data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms. One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters. (source)

There are many other studies out there on this chemical. For example, one study done by the Department of Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology at the University of Gottingen in Germany observed regulatory effects on receptor expression for oxybenzone that indicate endocrine (hormone) disruption.

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