Health Check: Do sunscreens cause cancer?

How safe are spray tans and do sunscreens cause more harm than good? We ask the experts.

Do sunscreens cause cancer? Are spray tans safe? These are just some of the many questions hitting the internet recently. 

May is skin cancer awareness month, so for this Health Check 12 we checked in with Dr. Neel Patel, HonorHealth dermatologist, who answers some burning questions. 

Are sunscreens causing cancer? 

No.

Dr. Patel says there is no research to back up this claim. Dr. Patel says the question is linked to two common ingredients in sunscreens: Avobenzone and Ozybenzone. Studies done on rats and fish showed the ingredients disrupted endocrine levels, which could eventually lead to cancer. 

However, when that same study was done in humans, it found it would take 200 years for endocrine levels to reach the same toxicity. 

Do particles in certain sunscreens cause more free radicals, or enter into the blood stream?

No. 

There are natural alternatives to sunscreens, such as zinc and titanium. However, they have nanosized particles. 

However, Dr. Patel said those nanosized particles are chemically coated with an ingredient that doesn't cause free radicals in the skin and studies have also shown they cannot enter the blood stream. 

Are spray tans safe? 

There have been no studies done on the long-term effects of getting spray tans on a daily basis, however, Dr. Patel says intermittent spray tans are probably still safer than classic sun tans. 

The science behind it is our body makes melanin in response to DNA damage by UV rays, so by forcing a tan onto our skin, we're essentially creating DNA damage.

"Ideally, we don't want to do that and we'd avoid the tan all together," said Dr. Patel.

But if you're wondering which way to go, "I do believe that products, fake tans, spray-on products and lotions that have DHA in them are probably a safer way to go than a true tan," he said. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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