Can Your Sunscreen Increase Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

A study published on the Missouri University of Science and Technology website and to be published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology concluded that sunscreen may not be as safe against skin cancer as previously believed. Building on previous published research the researchers concluded that when exposed to sunlight, zinc oxide, a common ingredient in sunscreens undergoes a chemical reaction releasing unstable molecules (free radicals). These seek to bond with other free radicals and in the process can damage cells or the DNA within the cells which, in turn, increases the risk of skin cancer. There is a direct relationship between the length of time the zinc is exposed to sunlight and the potential for cell damage.

The researcher studied the reaction of human lung cells immersed in a solution containing nano-particles of zinc oxide to exposure of different types of light over different time frames. A control of human lung cells was included that was not immersed in zinc oxide. Comparing the groups the researcher found the zinc oxide exposed cells deteriorated quicker than those not immersed in the chemical compound. He also found that when the cells exposed to zinc oxide were exposed to ultra-violet rays for 3 hours, half of the cells died, and aft3er 12 hours 90% had died. Because his research is in the early stages, the researcher cautions people from drawing conclusions about the safety of sunscreens until more research is completed. He says “I still advise people to wear susnsreen. Sunscreen is better than no protection at all..”

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