Michelle Dickinson: Alarmist headlines around new sunscreen study dismissed

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Alarmist headlines about sunscreen has been dismissed by our local nanogirl. A study by the US Federal Drug Agency was reported this week that it found that it just one day of use for several common sunscreen ingredients to enter the bloodstream at levels high enough to trigger a government safety investigation, according to a pilot study conducted by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, an arm of the US Food and Drug Administration. The study, published Monday in the medical journal JAMA, also found that the blood concentration of three of the ingredients continued to rise as daily use continued and then remained in the body for at least 24 hours after sunscreen use ended. The four chemicals studied - avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene - are part of a dozen that the FDA recently said needed to be researched by manufacturers before they could be considered "generally regarded as safe and effective." However, Dr Michelle Dickinson has criticised the headlines, as they did not contextualise the study. She says that these volunteers were basically bathing in sunscreen, as they were applying sunscreen on 75 per cent of their bodies four times a day for four days. That equates to two bottles across two days on just one individual. "I don't get two bottles of sunscreen a year, so the amount they were putting on was way in excess of what we think the normal amount is," Dickinson says. The results only showed a slightly heightened level of those four chemicals in the bloodstream. "It doesn't mean it is a bad thing, it is basically kicking off a bigger conversation," she says, and there will be other studies now to look at the long-term effects. Dickinson says that the most common form of cancer in New Zealand is skin cancer, and evidence shows that sun screen is one of the best ways to avoid this.

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