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30-09-2010 | Article

Vitamin A in sunscreens not a concern



MedWire News: The inclusion of retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), a form of retinoid, in sunscreens is not harmful, an independent analysis indicates, refuting concerns regarding its cancer-causing potential.

Dermatologist Steven Wang (Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA) and colleagues who authored the report, published in the American Academy of Dermatology, state that "based on the current available data from in vitro animal and human studies, there is no convincing evidence to support the notion that retinyl palmitate in sunscreens causes cancer."

They add that, on the contrary, "years of research suggests that retinoids are helpful in reducing your risk for skin cancer."

Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group issued a health warning that sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate could pose a cancer risk. One of the major concerns was that on exposure to ultraviolet A radiation, retinyl palmitate can result in the generation of oxygen radicals, or free radicals, which can disrupt cell function.

But Dr Wang and colleagues pointed out in their commentary that retinyl palmitate acts within the skin as one of many antioxidants that work together to alleviate the risk for free radical formation.

They also point out two clinical observations that provide the strongest argument against retinyl plamitate in sunscreens being carcinogenic. Firstly, the routine use of various forms of topical retinoids to manage sun damage, acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. And secondly, the fact that oral retinoids are used in the prevention of skin cancers in high-risk individuals receiving chemotherapy.

"The bottom line is that people should continue vigilantly using sunscreens along with other sun-safe practices - such as limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, and wearing sun-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses - to reduce the risk for skin cancer and premature aging," the researchers conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper