Sunscreen Ingredients: Long Needed Updates Ignored


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Skin cancer is a serious threat, and with the current sunscreens available in the U.S., its protection is lacking as the nearly 15 year old products have not been revised to meet new UVA and UVB needs.

The American Cancer Society claims that skin cancer is the most common of cancers seen in America. The agency estimates that 1 in every 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. Melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, kills nearly 10,000 Americans every year, and the number of cases have been rising for 30 years.

The depletion in the ozone layer each year due to the release of the chemicals chlorine and bromine has allowed larger than normal amounts of UVB rays to hit the planet. Thus exposing us to higher levels of UV (ultraviolet radiation) levels and higher UVB (ultraviolet short wave radiation) levels. It is the UVB levels that have the greatest impact.

From The World Health Organization: Computational models predict that a 10% decrease in stratospheric ozone could cause an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4500 melanoma skin cancers.

The UVB rays damage the surface of our skin and cause sunburns. UVA rays penetrate beneath the surface layer of skin tissue, and can lead to skin cancers like melanoma.

In the U.S., most sunscreens use chemicals such as oxybenzone and avobenzone to filter UVA radiation. But those ingredients protect only against certain UVA rays, and they break down quickly, according to skin cancer-research groups.

Although in the past 10 years or so, new UV-blocking agents have been developed for sunscreens, including a chemical filter called ecamsule, the FDA hasn’t expanded its approved list of sunscreen ingredients since 1999. Eight ingredients are currently awaiting approval, and ecamsule has only been approved in a few products in the U.S.

In other words, our sunscreens are not up to date which could explain the high skin cancer rates.

Advocates have put pressure on the FDA to approve the new sunblock ingredients, and commissioner Margaret Hamburg said sunscreen was “one of the highest priorities” in a 2013 Capitol Hill hearing.

Wendy Selig, president of the Melanoma Research Alliance, told the Washington Post that the hold-up isn’t fair to American consumers.

“We’re basically saying that the American people should make do with what was the most innovative science from 10 to 12 years ago,” she said. “Ask someone if they want to buy automobile technology from 12 years ago, or computer technology from 12 years ago.”

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