Sunscreen study raises eyebrows; doctors say keep using it

Sunscreen study raises eyebrows; doctors say keep using it
A new study suggests some chemicals in sunscreen are absorbed into the bloodstream at potentially unsafe levels. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A new study finds that seven chemicals commonly found in sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream at levels exceeding safety thresholds, but experts say just because an ingredient is absorbed does not mean it’s unsafe.

“The ingredients that were in the study have been around for a long time, and there’s really never been any evidence that they’re toxic,” said Dr. Stephanie Frederic, a dermatologist at the Baton Rouge Clinic. She believes the benefits of sunscreen outweigh any potential risks.

“We know that it helps protect against skin cancer and aging of the skin,” Frederic said.

If you’re concerned about the chemicals in sunscreen, Frederic recommends using mineral-based sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Those are not absorbed into the body. Instead, they sit on top of the skin and block UV rays from getting through.

“Traditionally, they have the reputation of being whitish and have a whitish cast, but they’ve really improved them,” Frederic explained. “They make them much less obvious. They make them tinted now so they don’t have that whitish cast, and they’re available in sprays, creams, and lotions.”

The FDA is turning up the heat on sunscreen manufacturers to do more testing on their products, but those studies will likely take years. Frederic says it’s vital people don’t abandon sun protection in the meantime.

“Don't forget about the other methods of sun protection like broad-brimmed hats, clothing, avoiding high-peak sun times like between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wearing sunglasses,” she said.

More Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. One in five Americans will be diagnosed by the age of 70.

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