(NaturalNews) Most experts agree people should use sunscreens to protect their skin from the sun, but there is wide disagreement on how well they actually work. In addition, other than sunburn prevention, little is known about their safety.
The Food and Drug Administration's 2007 sunscreen safety regulations draft says: "FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer." The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) agrees. IARC writes that "sunscreens should not be the first choice for skin cancer prevention or used as the sole agent for protection against the sun."
"Sunscreens were never developed to prevent skin cancer. In fact, there is no evidence to recommend that sunscreens prevent skin cancer in humans." -- Zoe Diana Draelos, editor of Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2010.
Philippe Autier, a scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, thinks the reason some studies show increased melanoma risk is that products with high-SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings cause "profound changes in sun behavior." There can be more damage staying too long in the sun with a high SPF sunscreen than if bare skin were exposed to UV rays.
Sunscreens with a high SPF do protect you from sunburn but don't necessarily block UVA rays, the radiation linked to skin aging, wrinkling, immune system suppression, and possibly skin cancer.
Autier advises people "should not use sunscreen but rather let their skin adapt and set strict limits on the time they spend in the sun" (Autier 2009). Health agencies have not wholly embraced this concept, though a growing body of evidence raises safety concerns that most sunscreen chemicals are far from innocuous.
In sunlight some sunscreen chemicals release free radicals that can damage DNA and cells, promote skin aging, possibly raise risks for skin cancer, mimic estrogen and disrupt hormones in the body.
Vitamin A, added to forty one percent of all sunscreens to slow skin aging, might sound like a good thing, but an FDA study recently indicated that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions (NTP 2009). Scientists have known for some time that vitamin A causes excess skin growth, and that in sunlight it can form free radicals that damage DNA (NTP 2000).
After investigating nearly 1,000 sunscreen products, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found four out of five offered inadequate protection from the sun or contained ingredients that may pose a health risk. They recommend consumers avoid sunscreens that have retinyl palmitate or retinol on the label.
This is not without controversy. "Dermatologists who reviewed the group's research say the biggest problem is that it lacks scientific rigor. In particular, they are critical of a sunscreen rating system that they say is arbitrary and without basis in any accepted scientific standard." (Well-NYTimes)
Dr. Warwick L. Morison, dermatology professor at Johns Hopkins and chairman of the Skin Cancer Foundation's photobiology committee that tests sunscreens for safety and efficacy says, "Using this scale (rating) to say a sunscreen offers good protection or bad protection is junk science."
Sonya Lunder is a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group and says the results were based on extensive review of sunscreen medical literature.
The Food and Drug Administration will soon have rules that give consumers more information on the label about sunscreens they buy.
People focus too much on sunscreens, Dr. Morison said. "A hat, staying out of the sun, avoiding the hottest part of the day and covering up are all part of the whole story. It's not just the sunscreen."
Deanna Dean is the Wellness Director for Your Health Coach, a company dedicated to health and wellness education. website: yourhealthcoachdee.com Dee is a Wellness & Weight Loss Coach, a Certified Natural Health Professional, is pursuing an ND degree-Naturopathic Doctor, is a certified Raw Chef, certified in Dietary Guidelines from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, former Personal Trainer, Yoga and Fitness Studio Owner, TV and Radio Guest, Health Columnist. Deanna develops customized programs to enhance the health of her clients, educates, and coaches dieters for safe weight loss.