Sunscreen use: Does it increase breast cancer risk?

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Sunscreen use: Does it increase breast cancer risk?

Question

I read that several ingredients in sunscreen are similar to estrogen and may cause breast cancer. Is this true?

Anne
Louisiana

Answer

No studies have proved that ingredients in sunscreen are linked to breast cancer. However, some animal and laboratory studies have shown that some ultraviolet (UV) filters in sunscreen may mimic estrogen, which could disrupt or alter your endocrine system. No evidence has shown that exposure to endocrine disruptors in low levels, such as those in sunscreen, leads to health problems.

One study with human volunteers found that the UV filters in sunscreens were absorbed into the skin, but they didn't have an effect on the health of the volunteers, or their levels of estrogen or any other hormone.

Further studies are needed to see if humans could be harmed by the ingredients in sunscreen. For now, the American Academy of Dermatology still recommends these precautions before heading out in the sun:

  • Use a sunscreen with UVA and UVB filters with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 on all exposed skin.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants and a brimmed hat.
  • Stay in the shade if possible.

If you're still concerned about the risks of traditional sunscreens, you can use a sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as an alternative. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide aren't absorbed into your skin, and don't mimic estrogen.

Last Updated: 09/04/2007
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