Recent media attention has once again brought sunscreen into the spotlight and has people questioning whether it is truly safe for regular use. This comes from a study by the American FDA that ingredients in sunscreen may be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, the fact that sunscreen is absorbed into the skin doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe for use, and in fact sunscreen has been repeatedly shown to be one of the most effective protective measures against skin cancer.
The Cancer Council of Australia states that the vast majority of skin cancers in Australia are proven to come from overexposure to UV radiation in sunlight. This means that sunscreen is still a key component of protection against Australia’s most prevalent cancer.
Sunscreen and risk of melanoma
In the past sunscreen has also been rumoured to cause skin cancer instead of preventing it. However, a thorough review of the facts show that there is no link between the use of sunscreen and increase in skin cancer cases. In fact, the opposite has been shown by various scientific studies. An Australian study in 2011 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology observed the affect of sunscreen on 1,621 Australians and found that it was linked to significantly reduced cases of melanoma in adults who used it.
Sunscreen and Vitamin D
Another fear of the opponents of sunscreen is that it might block or reduce the amount of vitamin D that a person is capable of producing from exposure to the sun. This is based on the idea that the majority of people are suffering from vitamin D deficiencies and need to be exposed to sunlight. Once again the opposite is true, with the Australian Health Survey of 2011-2012 showing that the large majority of Australians do not have a Vitamin D deficiency.
Another fear of consumers has been that the compound Oxybenzone, used as an ingredient in sunscreen, might cause hormonal changes in the body because it is a type of synthetic oestrogen. A scientific study in 2004 on the affects of Oxybenzone in sunscreen on the hormonal system showed no changes caused by its use. Similarly, fears of Oxybenzone building up in the body have been disproven as the chemical is excreted by the body, making buildup more or less impossible by the use of sunscreen.
Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide
In the past nanoparticles such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide came under fire for potentially being carcinogenic if absorbed in significant quantities. These fears have proven to be unfounded by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is in charge of regulating product safety for Australian consumers. In 2016 they updated their scientific review on the safety of these particles in sunscreens and found that they do not penetrate or minimally penetrate the skin when used as directed.
This is particularly important as both of these components have been proven to be extremely effective in blocking out harmful UV radiation, and thus providing significant protection against the factor most likely to cause skin cancer, overexposure to sunlight.