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CHICAGO, June 28 (AScribe Newswire) -- Following is commentary by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. Epstein is Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and Professor Emeritus of Environmental & Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.
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On June 19, The New York Times published an article, "Saving Young Skin From the Sun's Perils," by its regular columnist Jane Brody. Brody warned that sunscreen "is a must for everyone starting at age six months ... and should be reapplied every two hours," especially for children. However, Brody is unaware of the dangers of sunscreens.
Six ingredients are commonly used in sunscreens, at concentrations of up to 10 percent, in order to reduce risks of sunburn from exposure to short wave ultraviolet (UVB) solar radiation. It should, however, be emphasized that these ingredients fail to block the more dangerous long wave (UVA) radiation.
A series of recent studies have raised serious concerns on the dangers of sunscreens. Contrary to reassurances on safety, based on label claims for a high Skin Protection Factor (SPF), most light-skinned people use sunscreens to protect against sunburn due to UVB radiation. However, this common practice, particularly in children, results in high levels of cumulative exposure to the more dangerous UVA radiation. This penetrates into the deep layers of the skin without any warning of sunburn, breaks down the protein and collagen which keep the skin firm and plump, and is responsible for the classic signs of skin aging, including wrinkling and discoloration. More seriously, UVA radiation is well recognized as the major cause of malignant melanoma. This is now the fastest rising cancer in the world, whose incidence in the U.S. over recent decades has increased dramatically by about 130 percent, and whose mortality has increased by about 25 percent.
Of additional concern are the hormonal effects of sunscreens. Their ingredients belong to a family of hormone-damaging chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors. These stimulate uterine growth of infant rats following painting their skin with concentrations similar to those in sunscreens. Furthermore, there is well-documented evidence that sunscreen ingredients accumulate in the human body as evidenced by their detection in breast milk.
These dangers of sunscreens can be readily avoided by the use of conventional zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide sunblocks. These are highly effective against the dangerous UVA radiation. Their only disadvantage is that they whiten skin, depending on the amount used and frequency of application.
It should be noted that my June 21 letter to The Times warning of the dangers of sunscreens and the safety of sunblocks remains unpublished.
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CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.; office 312-996-2297
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