Study points out that sunscreens which contain retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) do not cause cancer.
"Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group issued a health warning that sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate could pose a cancer risk," said dermatologist Henry W. Lim of Henry Ford Hospital.
"This warning garnered significant media attention and caused considerable confusion among the public. Our report should help dismiss the misinformation that sunscreens are not safe, as sunscreens are vitally important in reducing your risk for skin cancer, not causing it."
The lead investigator and dermatologist Steven Q. Wang of Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York explained that although retinyl palmitate was selected for testing by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), mere selection does not mean that the chosen compounds are dangerous or unsafe.
He explained that retinyl palmitate was mainly selected because of its widespread use in cosmetic and sunscreen products.
"Despite the concerns raised by these non-human studies, retinyl palmitate operates within the skin as only one component of a complex antioxidant network," said Wang.
"For example, when a sunscreen with retinyl palmitate is applied to the skin, a number of antioxidants work together to alleviate the risk of free radical formation seen in these in vitro experiments.
"If studied on its own - outside of this environment - its antioxidant properties can rapidly be exhausted, allowing the production of oxygen radicals.
"In these non-human studies, retinyl palmitate was the only compound studied - making the biological relevance of these findings to humans unclear," he said.
"It is important to note that the mice in the NTP study are highly susceptible to the effects of UV radiation and can develop skin cancer or other skin abnormalities within weeks of UV exposure, even in the absence of retinyl palmitate," said Dr. Wang.
"That is why extreme caution is needed when extrapolating these animal study results to humans."
"Based on the current available data from in vitro, animal and human studies, there is no convincing evidence to support the notion that retinyl palmitate in sunscreens causes cancer," said Dr. Wang.
"On the contrary, years of research suggest that retinoids are helpful in reducing your risk for skin cancer. The bottom line is that people should continue vigilantly using sunscreens along with other sun-safe practices - such as limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, and wearing sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses - to reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging," he added.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.