We Are Sunshine

Derms Downplay Sunscreen Dangers

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010


Lobbying groups in the dermatology community predictably are downplaying new reports questioning the safety of some chemicals used in most chemical sunscreens and have not backed down from their message to use the products daily.

“Are you going to make a decision that could impact your — or your kids’ — future by allowing yourself to get skin cancer and wrinkle and age prematurely based on some information from a lab study on animals in Europe? The answer is no,” Dr. Jeffrey Dover, president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, told in an article published Monday.

Dr. Doris Day, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, also told “I don’t put that much stock (in the reports). The important thing is we do know that all waves of light are dangerous for the skin and can cause skin cancer. We know that. We know that protecting yourself from the sun makes a difference in minimizing skin cancer.”

The Environmental Working Group has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to do more rigorous safety testing of the chemicals in sunscreen. According to EWG:

  • Oxybenzone, an ingredient used in most sunscreens as a UVA blocker, disrupts some hormone functions in the body.
  • A vitamin A derivative used in most chemical sunscreens, retinyl palmitate, may actually elevate the risk of skin cancer.

But the dermatology leaders in the article may be sticking to their guns just to protect themselves from liability.

“The point that dermatology keeps missing is that sunscreen is a product whose only stated purpose is to prevent sunburn, and dermatologists are telling people to put it on their skin 365 days a year. Not only is that misbranding the product, but because the product may actually have harmful side effects, it’s potentially dangerous advice,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “It seems that dermatology — faced with the possibility that products could be harmful — has chosen to double-down on its message, almost like they are trying to justify their mistake, rather than do the right thing.”

The right thing: Tell consumers to wear chemical sunscreen only when sunburn is possible and encourage product safety testing. But that’s not what dermatology leaders like Day are saying. reported that Day actually said for consumers to look for sunscreens that contain the active ingredients benzophenone (oxybenzone) or avobenzone. “Any risk from using sunscreen is less than the risk from chronic damage from the sun,” Day told

Is she admitting that the products may carry risk?

To read the article click here.