Sunscreens (UV Filters)
At a Glance
Research has found that many sunscreens contain chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body, disrupt the endocrine system, and can play a significant role in breast cancer development.
You shouldn’t have to choose between skin cancer and breast cancer.
What are UV filters?
Ultraviolet filters, or UV filters, are chemicals that screen out UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun. Although some exposure to UV-B light is necessary for the production of Vitamin D, a compound which is protective against breast cancer, excessive exposures to UV rays increase the risk of developing skin cancer. UV filters are therefore added to many personal care products to help provide protection against these potentially harmful ultraviolet rays. They are also added to products to prevent fading and degradation as a result of sun exposure. Common UV filters include benzophenone (BP) and its derivatives (e.g., BP-1, BP-2, and oxybenzone or BP-3), homosalate, octinoxate (OMC), 4–methylbenzylidene camphor (MBC) and PABA.
Where are UV filters found?
UV filters are primarily found in sunscreens but may also be added to hair color, shampoo, makeup foundation, lipstick, nail polish, skin creams and lotions.
What evidence links UV filters to breast cancer?
- UV filters easily penetrate the skin and have been found throughout the breast in tissue taken from women undergoing mastectomies for breast cancer. UV filters have also been measured in human placental tissue and milk, as well as in adult urine and blood ,
- Many chemicals used as UV filters in personal care products can mimic estrogen in the human body, and are thus considered to be endocrine disruptors.
- Some of these chemicals have been shown in laboratory studies to increase the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells. Other studies have shown that these UV filters increase the migration and invasive activity of human breast cancer cells.
- Studies have shown that exposure to some UV filters can affect the development of reproductive organs in animals exposed in utero, while other studies have shown that exposure to some UV filters could affect the thyroid gland.
Who is most likely to be exposed to UV filters?
Anyone who uses sunscreen or personal care products is likely to be exposed to UV filters.
Who is most vulnerable to the health effects of UV filters?
People who are most vulnerable to the potential health effects of UV filters are pregnant women, infants who are breast-feeding and agricultural and landscaping workers, especially those who regularly use pesticides, because some UV filters can increase the permeability of skin to certain pesticides. ,,
What are the top tips to avoid exposure?
The best way to reduce exposure to UV filters is to read labels on sunscreens, cosmetics and other personal care products and avoid purchasing those that list chemical UV filters, such as octinoxate, octyl methoxycinnamate, benzophenone, oxybenzone, PABA and padimate O.
- Choose sunscreens that use sun-blocking compounds derived from minerals, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, in a non-inhalable form;
- Avoid purchasing lipsticks, hair products, nail polish and other personal care products that list chemical UV filters such as octinoxate or octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC).
- When spending long periods of time in the sun, use good sun sense. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, lightweight long sleeves and pants, and apply a mineral-based sunblock liberally and frequently.
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