New report may cause skin damage scare

August 12, 2010 7:13:54 PM PDT
A newly published analysis refutes a recent report that sunscreens may be harmful. About 40 percent of sunscreens, and many other cosmetic products, contain a form of vitamin A, which has come under fire from an environmental group.

The sunscreen controversy started with a report by the Environmental Working Group entitled "Sunscreen Additive May Speed Skin Damage." the ingredient in question is retinyl plamitate, a form of vitamin A and the data comes from the FDA's own website.

"They're most recent study, the one-year study shows that rubbing the skin with retinyl palmitate vitamin A, and then exposing skin to the sun, accelerates the development of skin cancer tumors," Rebecca Sutton from the Environmental Working Group said.

But the FDA says this animal research is still in the early stages, yet to be peer reviewed and published and should not be extrapolated to humans.

"If we felt there was a danger to the public, we'd alert them to that," Janet McBride from the FDA said.

McBride says there's no evidence sunscreens are harmful.

"The study was done just on a single ingredient not in combination with a sunscreen product. Retinyl palmitate is an inactive ingredient, it's not a sunscreen ingredient," she said.

The Skin Cancer Foundation issued a statement labeling the Environmental Working Group's report: "junk science," saying it will "raise unnecessary fears."

This week an independent analysis published in the journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found, "no evidence that the inclusion of RP in sunscreens is photo carcinogenic (cancerous) in human beings."

UCSF dermatologist Dr. Isaac Neuhaus tells his patients sunscreen plays a key role in protecting the skin from the dangerous rays of the sun.

"There is definitely studies out there that show sunscreen when used in conjunction with other behavioral changes can reduce the incidence of skin cancer," he said.

The FDA plans to release a draft report on retinyl palmitate study in mice by December. It will then go out for peer review.


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