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environmental working group
gene mutations
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breast cancer
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skin cancer
Is Your Sunscreen Increasing Your Risk Of Cancer?
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Is Your Sunscreen Increasing Your Risk Of Cancer?

Most of us share a love for summer and the fun that entails the sea, sun and sand. But with all good things, too much is a bad thing, and since none of us enjoy a nasty sun burn, it's nothing out of the ordinary when we reach for our number one sun protection product; sunscreen. An ironic, but growing concern however, is the prospect that the very creams designed to protect us from sunburn and skin cancer might actually contain ingredients which can increase our risk of cancer, as well as posing a number of other health threats.

Ingredients to avoid

Retinyl palmitate is a vitamin A derivative and is added to more than 20% of the sun protective lotions available to us on the market. It is also used in many other cosmetic products as it is believed to reduce skin damage and prevent the effects of ageing. However, multiple studies have shown that when exposed to the sun, retinal palmitate has the opposite effect, actually damaging free radicals, DNA and causing gene mutations, a predecessor of cancer. Studies have proven that retinal palmitate actually accelerates the growth of skin tumours and lesions and the Environmental working group has given it a high toxicity rating. They also express concern for reproductive system toxicity. Basically, retinal palmitate is easily absorbed into the skin and repeated daily exposure can cause accumulations in the body. Over time, the levels may build up high enough that the effects to a developing fetes would be toxic.

Oxybenzone is a commonly used active ingredient in sun protection products and one you want to avoid. It has a high hazard rating in EWGs skin deep directory due to its highly skin penetrative and accumulative nature. European studies have detected oxybenzone in mother's breast milk, indicating the exposure of this chemical to the developing fetus and newborn baby. It is also known to mimic oestrogen, a female hormone linked with the development of breast cancer and has been associated with endometriosis in women. It is also the cause of a relatively high rate of skin allergies.

Safe, alternative sun protection options?

Despite the overwhelming choice of chemical based sunscreens on the market, there are excellent natural based sunscreens as well. Titanium oxide and zinc oxide are both naturally derived mineral compounds from the earth and are considered the safest ingredients used in sunscreen products. They act as a physical barrier from the sun, deflecting rather than absorbing the harmful UVA and UVB rays. These ingredients do not penetrate the skin as do chemical sunscreens. They also do not break down in the sun, another fault of the chemical sunscreen, resulting in a more resilient protection. Zinc oxide also contains anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties. One or both of these ingredients combined with naturally derived waxes, butters and oils such as bees wax, shea or cocoa butter, coconut oil (which is naturally SPF4) and/or essential oils make for a high protection, safe, yet nourishing (not to mention great smelling!) experience your skin will thank you for. And don't forget that the best defence against the sun is a t-shirt and hat!

Another reason to steer clear of chemical laden sunscreens?

Another reason why opting not to use a chemical based sunscreen is in the best interest and preservation of our coral reefs. National Geographic has found that an estimated 4 - 6000 tonnes of sunscreen residue washes off swimmers and into our oceans per year. 10% of that amount contributes to the destruction of our coral reefs worldwide. In this instance, zinc oxide is not just a safer option for you and your family, but also for the environment. When washed from swimmers in the sea or ocean, it forms a silt like layer on the sea floor, easily blending back in with the sand, without effecting the surrounding environment.

Enjoy your summer time with peace of mind

Now that you are armed with the knowledge that the products which you use to protect yourself from cancer may actually be adversely putting you at risk, solace can be found in knowing that more effective, more beneficial and most importantly "Safe" ingredients are also available to us. Additionally, knowing that you are also doing your part to prevent further damage to our beautiful coral reefs should aid in your choice making when it comes to buying your sunscreen. So read your labels and shop wisely, but most of all enjoy your summertime fun in the sun with peace of mind.


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