Scientific Evidence and Sunscreen Safety

By Elizabeth Tanzi, MDDermatologist, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

Posted on | By Elizabeth Tanzi, MD | Comments ()

There have been concerns raised recently about the safety of certain ingredients in sunscreens. However, scientific evidence supports the benefits of sunscreen usage to minimize short- and long-term damage to the skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun and outweighs any unproven claims of toxicity. The currently available scientific evidence in the medical literature and from both national and international regulatory bodies such as the US Food and Drug Association (FDA) deem that “there is no reason to believe these products are not safe and effective when used as directed.”

The American Academy of Dermatology reiterates the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens to protect against the damaging effects from exposure to ultraviolet rays. As one component of a daily sun-protection strategy, sunscreen is an important tool in the fight against skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Unprotected sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. More than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, affecting 2 million people. At current rates, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. About 75% of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma, and the incidence of melanoma has been rising for at least 30 years.

Both chemical and mineral-based sunscreen products contain one or more active drug ingredients – compounds that absorb, scatter or reflect UV light – and are regulated as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs by the FDA. The FDA has several safety and effectiveness regulations in place that govern the manufacture and marketing of all sunscreen products, including safety data on its ingredients.

Although it is natural to question the safety of ingredients used on the skin, our largest organ, consumers should rest assured that sunscreen products are safe and effective when used as directed.

Sunscreens should be considered a vital part of a comprehensive sun-protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing, including a hat and sunglasses, and avoiding the sun when the rays are at their strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Article written by Elizabeth Tanzi, MD
Dermatologist, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery