New cancer warning about common sunscreen ingredient

I know in most parts of the country, outdoor public pools have closed for the season. Nonetheless, I still want to inform you of this new, important warning about avobenzone, an active ingredient used in many name-brand sunscreens.

According to a new report published in Chemosphere Journal, avobenzone breaks down into harmful chemicals, some of which cause cancer, when exposed to sunlight and chlorine. Of course, people put ON sunscreen before going out in the sun and swimming in pools filled with chlorine — so the new discovery is very concerning to say the least.

Benzene itself (an ingredient in avobenzone) is a long-known carcinogen and the subject of all kinds of government environmental and worker protection safety regulations. And environmentalists have been trying for decades to keep these kinds of harmful chemicals out of our drinking water.

Swimming in a chlorinated pool and getting pool water into your mouth can give you a particularly toxic dose. Plus, according to the chemists’ report, the conversion proceeds even more rapidly in the heat and the sun. (As if you needed another reason to avoid public pools.)

Pool operators tell you to shower before entering a public pool. But make sure you shower afterward too. Or better yet, try to swim in saltwater pools or the ocean.

And perhaps more importantly, choose your sunscreen carefully.

Do we even need sunscreen?

Last month, I summarized the evidence for the sunscreen “scam,” including the lack of any real evidence that sunscreen prevents skin cancer.

We now know what really caused the increase in deadly melanoma skin cancer observed in recent decades. It was not due to sun exposure. It was not due to “sunscreen deficiency.” And it was not due to anything that adults do at all in the sun without their clothes on. (Wouldn’t you know it, French scientists discovered this huge breakthrough!)

This recent French statistical analysis clearly links the rise in melanoma death rates to an outdated medical practice used during the 20th century. This practice, which involved exposing children to extensive, whole-body ultraviolet radiation for supposed health benefits, caused the spike in melanoma rates we now see in older adults.

Thankfully, this deadly practice ended by the 1950s. And the next generation of children who grew up after this medical practice ended, bared far more skin on the beaches in the 1960s and 1970s than their parents did. They also didn’t wear sunscreen. Nevertheless, they’re now experiencing lower rates of malignant skin cancer as they get older.

It remains unproven whether sunscreen has any long-term benefits at all. But, as I reported earlier this week, we do know it blocks the natural production of active vitamin D. And research links a host of serious health problems with low vitamin D — including breast cancer!

If you must use a sunscreen, put a zinc-based sunscreen on the sensitive, exposed areas, like your face. And avoid avobenzone. Let’s just consider it “avoid-o-benzone.”



“Stability and removal of selected avobenzone’s chlorination products,” Chemosphere Journal 2017 Sep;182:238-244