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Dr. Michael C. Bartfield, M.D., F.A.C.OG.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer rates are still on the rise for both men and women in the United States.1 An estimated 74,000 new cases of melanoma were anticipated by the American Cancer Society last year.2 Each year, new cases ofnon-melanoma skin cancer affect roughly 3.5 million Americans.3 Aside from one having perfect genetics and total avoidance of any ultraviolet light sources, the development of effective topical sunscreens has been shown to significantly reduce one’s risk of invasive melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 4,5
So what’s in a topical sunscreen? The two main components include physical skin screens and ultraviolet radiation blockers. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to choose from 16 different possible chemicals to use in sunscreens, only half of which are used regularly in the industry. Yet, not all of the approved sunscreen components are equally effective at blocking both types of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB).6
There is relatively little data on whether sunscreen is safe during pregnancy, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does promote sunscreen use during pregnancy, particularly to help prevent the worsening of “chloasma” or the “mask of pregnancy” (the dark facial pigmentation that may occur during pregnancy). 7 There has been a study that stated one of the sunscreen chemicals, called oxybenzone, might cause low birth weight babies.8 As with most things during pregnancy, benefits to the pregnant woman and to her unborn baby should outweigh risks if something is going to be used. When it comes to a lifelong process of trying to prevent skin cancer and premature skin aging, the overwhelming majority of healthcare providers agree on the importance of using sunscreen during pregnancy. Enjoy the sun... safely!
The views expressed herein are solely the views of Dr. Michael C. Bartfield, M.D., F.A.C.OG. and do not necessarily reflect the views of TherapeuticsMD, Inc. or any of its affiliates. This information is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice.
1. Kohler, BA, Sherman RL, Howlader N, Jemal, A, Ryerson AB, Henry KA, Boscoe, FP, Cronin KA, Lake A, Noone, A-M, Henley, SJ, Eheman, CR, Anderson, RN, Penberthy, L. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2011, featuring incidence of breast cancer subtypes by race/ethnicity, poverty, and state. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2015;107(6):djv048.
2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2015. http://wwm.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf
3. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-031941.pdf
4. Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. Journ Clin Oncol. Jan 2011; 29:3:257-263.
5. Green AC, Williams G, Neale R, Hart V, Leslie D, Parsons P, et al. Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 1999 Aug 28; 354(9180):723-9.
6. After More Than A Decade, FDA Still Won’t Allow New Sunscreens. Chemical and Engineering News. Volume 93 Issue 20. http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/i20/Decade-FDA-Still-Wont-Allow.html
7. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. AP169, May 2014 ACOG
8. Wolff MS, Engel SM, Berkowitz GS, Ye X, Silva MJ, Zhu C, et al. 2008. Prenatal phenol and phthalate exposures and birth outcomes. Environmental health perspectives 116: Available online March 20, 2008.