Sunscreen safety under investigation

RENO, NV (KOLO) Even though it doesn't feel like it just yet, warmer weather is coming. And if you don't use sunscreen year-round, which you should, it will soon be time to break out the bottle or spray can.

Experts have drilled home the sun protection factor (SPF), and how sunscreens should protect your skin from ultraviolet A and B rays.

What you may not know is there are two kinds of products, screens and minerals.

“Minerals are blockers,” says Dr. Billie Casse, MD, with Nevada Center for Dermatology. “They basically sit on the epidermis and block the UV light. Screens are actually screening out the sun in the epidermis,” says Dr. Casse.

Earlier this month, in the medical journal JAMA, researchers revealed the results of a small study concerning sunscreen and its absorption into the body.

The study of 24 people showed the chemicals in the sunscreen were indeed absorbed into the blood stream.

Some of these chemicals are active ingredients in the sunscreen like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule-- all contained in chemical sunscreens.

The Food and Drug Administration says it doesn't know if there are safe levels of these chemicals once they enter the body.

“Were not saying that's unsafe,” says Dr. Casse.

Dr. Casse says the recommendation to wear sunscreen stays the same until more studies are conducted.

As an alternative, she says, the mineral sunscreens where the main ingredient is zinc oxide may be the best option. Also she says there is sun protective clothing to help protect your skin from the sun.

What this information and study should not do, Dr. Casse says, is stop patients from wearing sunscreen altogether.
When the risks and benefits of sunscreens are weighed, there is no comparison.

“No one comes in here stating that they stayed out of the sun all their life and had sunscreen on their entire life and now they have skin cancer,” say Dr. Casse.

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to update regulations surrounding sunscreens. They regulate sunscreens just as the agency regulates drugs. The proposal hopes to bring sunscreens up to current scientific standards.

Part of the initiative would look at 12 ingredients in sunscreens to see if they are absorbed into the skin, at what rate that absorption occurs and how safe it is.

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