The Other Side of the Sunscreen Debate

Last week, I wrote about a recent study that claimed sunscreen could possibly increase incidents of skin cancer. It was not good news to my ears, as I’m sure it wasn’t to others who happily slather themselves from head to toe with sunscreen before stepping foot outdoors. It did, however, spark some healthy debate on the topic. I’m happy to say that many of my fears have been put to rest, as I learn more. Here, Larry Lockhart, R.P., CEO of Bionresearch, offers his take on the topic:

In a widely distributed article written by Andrew Schneider and published in the AOL News, the author references “documents and interviews” that he claims will show that the inclusion of Vitamin A in sunscreens will speed the formation and spread of malignant skin cells. The author claims, again through “documents and interviews” that the FDA has been aware of this problem for 10 years. The FDA denies this allegation. Mr. Schneider also references an article published by the Environmental Working Group. This group’s mission is to review government data, legal documents “scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions. Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know.” This last sentence tells it all. They are a little like the National Enquirer.

The study used both male and female hairless mice with 34 to 36 animals in two separate groups, plus a control group. As was reported in the article “testing included two concentrations of retinyl palmitate, 0.1% and 0.5%, administered topically in a cream vehicle.” The author added “In FDA’s 1-year study, tumors and lesions developed up to 21 percent sooner in lab animals coated in a vitamin A-laced cream (at concentrations of 0.1% to 0.5%) than in control animals treated with a vitamin-free cream. Both groups were exposed to the equivalent of nine minutes of noontime Florida sunlight each day for up to a year.” Environmental Working Group stated the study “analyzed differences in the number of days recorded for each animal’s survival, a proxy for rate of tumor or lesion development. Animals treated with retinyl palmitate were withdrawn from the study 11-to-21 percent sooner than animals whose skin was treated with a neutral cream and exposed to the same doses of UV. These findings were statistically significant for both sexes and for each exposure group. Mice treated with only UV or only neutral cream combined with UV survived longer than animals exposed to vitamin A.”
The study they reported on did not list an author for the study or experience of the research team. This was not a double blind study where the researchers did not know which group was which. The groups were very small with only about 3 dozen animals tested. But the most surprising part of the study, and a true indicator of the validity of this study, is that the vitamin A was tested in a “neutral cream” and not in any type of sunscreen! Whoever did the study wants us to assume that the results would be the same between vitamin A/neutral base and vitamin A/sunscreen, but they never bothered to test the vitamin A/sunscreen combination that they claim is harmful. Instead of the title of the article being “Study: Many Sunscreens May Be Accelerating Cancer”, the title should have been “Study: Many Neutral Creams May Be Accelerating Cancer.” What they could have done was made up 5 separate groups, one with just sunscreen, then 4 that contain vitamin A plus: one with sunscreen containing Octinoxate; one with sunscreen containing Avobenzone; one with sunscreen containing titanium dioxide; and one with sunscreen containing zinc oxide. At least in this way they would have been testing the combination that they are condemning.

The FDA data are preliminary; the agency will publish its evaluation and conclusions in a report expected in October 2010. Before then, disregard this “news” report. BiON’s Titanium Dioxide Sunscreen has a very small amount of retinoic acid that is used as an antioxidant. The product is safe. In fact, if the study group had used sunscreen on top of the neutral base/vitamin A, they probably would have had significantly fewer malignant skin cells.

4 Comments so far
  1. Jane Aransky June 23, 2010 6:33 pm

    Thanks so much for doing the detective work for all of us. I will be making copies of your report and distributing to our clientele.

  2. Jane Aransky June 23, 2010 6:34 pm

    Thanks so much for doing the detective work for all of us. I will be making copies of your report and distributing it to our clientele.

  3. Thanks for this information. I was hoping there would be a counter-response, because the original report was not specific about the procedures used.

  4. valarie bryant June 26, 2010 5:12 am

    I knew 20 years ago that you should not put Retin A on and go in the sun. It was written all over the prescription. It is a form of vitamin A. It causes the skin to peel and/or self exfoliate. It is great at night.
    I was taught that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide were the best sun screens to use. They have been used for decades by life guards.

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