News & Media


May 7, 2019

BAD response to sunscreen chemical concerns following JAMA study

Below is the BAD response to ‘Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients’.

Dr Andrew Birnie, British Association of Dermatologists (consultant dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon), said:

“It’s worth noting that the amounts of sunscreen used in this study are significantly higher than the average person would use in normal circumstances.  Furthermore, sunscreen has been used by a large portion of the population for a number of decades and there has not been any epidemiological data that suggests users come to harm.  We agree with the researchers that people should not make the knee-jerk decision to stop using sunscreen.

“Skin cancer is the UK’s most common cancer, equalling all other cancers combined.  The link between excess sun exposure and skin cancer is well documented and indisputable.  This research on sunscreen is very much at an early stage.  The first line of defence against the sun should be shade and clothing, with sunscreen used for additional protection.”

Prof Brian Diffey of the British Association of Dermatologists (Emeritus Professor of Photobiology, Dermatological Sciences, Newcastle University), said:

“As the authors themselves have said, this was a maximal use study using generous and frequent applications of sunscreen – in practice most people apply a thinner layer of sunscreen over a smaller fraction of the body surface less often during the day, resulting in a daily amount of sunscreen about one tenth of the amount used in this study.

“This would mean that for 3 of the 4 agents studied here, the levels of active ingredients found in the plasma during typical usage would fall below the threshold value.  (The threshold value in toxicology means the value that would approximate the highest plasma level below which the carcinogenic risk of any unknown compound would be less than 1 in 100,000 after a single dose.)

“The authors suggest their findings mean we should do further to determine the clinical significance of these findings.  It is important to note there is no evidence from this study that there is any health risk.  And even at maximal use, any theoretical risk is almost certainly far smaller than the reduced risk of skin cancer that has been shown to be associated with sunscreen use.  Indeed, the authors themselves say that their results do not suggest that people should refrain from using sunscreen.

“It is important to note that each participant in the study applied the equivalent of two standard bottles of sunscreen over four days.  This is considerably greater than typical use where it has been estimated that people who use sunscreen go through about one bottle per year per person.”