With almost 9,500 Americans diagnosed with skin cancer every day, sunscreen is one of the best methods of protection against harmful rays. But according to recent research from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it can also be full of potentially harmful chemicals, which can be absorbed into the bloodstream after just one day.
Published on Monday in JAMA, the study, known as a maximal usage trial, analyzed blood samples from 24 people who applied the maximum recommended level of sunscreen to 75 percent of their bodies for a week. Scientists then looked at four of the active ingredients most commonly found in sunscreen products: avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene.
They found that the participants had higher-than-recommended levels of the chemicals in their blood, based on the FDA’s threshold for how much of an active ingredient can be in someone’s bloodstream before it needs to be tested for safety concerns.
Researchers say that this is likely due to the advances in sunscreen technology, which, while effective, also means that there are “more active ingredients combined together in higher concentrations than were previously used.” In its report, the FDA cautions that “these changing conditions of use and differences in sunscreen formulation may also lead to greater absorption and possibly additional risks.”
However, the agency, which says that more research needs to be done before any conclusive results are drawn, urges people to continue using sunscreen in the meantime. “Broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of at least 15 remain a critical element of a skin-cancer prevention strategy,” the FDA explains, adding that other protective measures, like wearing sunglasses, hats, and full-coverage clothing, are also crucial to sun safety.
Other experts, like Brian Diffey, professor of dermatological sciences at Newcastle University, agree. “It is important to note there is no evidence from this study that there is any health risk,” he told Newsweek. “And even at maximal use, any theoretical risk is almost certainly far smaller than the reduced risk of skin cancer that has been shown to be associated with sunscreen use.”