First of all, it is worth noting that the link between excess sun exposure and skin cancer is well documented and indisputable. However, over the last few days there have been many news reports cropping up that some of the chemicals used to protect our skin may find their way into the bloodstream and this has got people worried. It’s no wonder with headlines such as:
“Sunscreen chemicals seep into your bloodstream in one day, FDA study shows”
“Sunscreen Chemicals Soak All the Way Into Your Bloodstream”
“ Sunscreen chemicals ‘leach into blood”
We all know the media love a good scare story to drive up ratings but what are the facts?
Firstly it is worth pointing out that this data comes from a trial of only 24 participants and even the authors point out that their study is only a starting point for further research.
In the small pilot study published in JAMA, the researchers found that some of the active ingredients in sunscreen are absorbed into the body and into the bloodstream when used under ‘maximal use conditions’. The relevance of the concentrations of chemicals in the blood was not discussed as this is not known and needs further research.
So where does this leave us?
Well, first of all — don’t stop using sunscreen!
In this study, the amounts of cream applied to the test subjects was WAY more than the average person would normally use — imagine using the equivalent of TWO WHOLE bottles of suncream in just 4 days. If you are anything like me you still have a half full bottle in the cupboard from two years ago!
Even if you were using these huge quantities of suncream any theoretical risk posed by the absorption of the chemicals is almost certainly far smaller than the risk of skin cancer that is associated with excess sun exposure. In the UK skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting us, equalling all other cancers combined.
So as the days are getting longer and brighter and we are tempted to bare our pale flesh to the sun, remember; pop on a hat and some shades, maybe wear long sleeves and when you do expose your skin — don’t be afraid to wear suncream.