A clinical trial by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, a division of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, found that four ingredients commonly found in sunscreens are absorbed by the bloodstream within a day of usage and remain in the bloodstream for at least 24 hours. With daily use, the blood concentration of three of the ingredients builds up. The FDA has determined that the chemicals — avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene — require further study.

Jmore recently spoke with Dr. Rebecca M. Dodson, a surgical oncologist at the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute at LifeBridge Health, about the new research.

Sunscreen (Handout photo)

1. Should we stop using sunscreen?

We do not currently recommend stopping the use of sunscreens. It probably still has more benefits than risks. The study involved the use of nearly double the recommended amount of sunscreen. There are limited studies addressing the effects of sunscreen components entering the bloodstream.

2. What types of sunscreen should we use?

Use sunscreen with SPF protection of greater than 50 that provides protection against UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) radiations. Also, look for sunscreen that it is water and sweat resistant. When you use spray sunscreens, keep in mind that it’s generally harder to apply enough sunscreen to provide the amount of SPF on the label. Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide deflect UV rays, sit on top of the skin and are recognized as safe. They are usually thick and white or have a color. Oxybenzone and avobenzone absorb rays. They are usually more transparent and not visible. These sunscreens are not FDA recognized as safe, because there is currently not enough data on them. However, they are likely not dangerous.

3. Are Jews more susceptible to skin cancer?

Ashkenazi Jews are at a higher risk of several cancers, including melanoma, breast cancer  and ovarian cancer, which are linked to BRCA2 mutation. Epidemiological studies have  demonstrated higher melanoma rates in secular Jews than Orthodox Jews in Israel, which is likely due to more conservative dress and less skin exposure to the sun in Orthodox Jewish communities.

4. Should we avoid the sun altogether?

There are three main ways to reduce the risk of skin cancer (melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma):

  • Avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Wear UV blocking clothing, which has become increasingly available. Wide brim hats that cover the ears and nose are also effective.
  • Use sunscreen.

5. Does sunscreen expire? 

Yes. There is a breakdown of the product’s protective chemical components. Often, these components break down faster in the heat. Most sunscreens are effective for approximately three years when stored in a cool dry place. However, I recommend a new bottle of sunscreen each spring/summer season.

Also see: Summer 2019 Guide