Vitamin A in Sunscreen Link to Skin Tumors Confirmed

An independent science advisory panel has confirmed an earlier assessment by federal researchers that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A found in two-fifths of U.S. sunscreens, speeds the development of skin tumors and lesions.

The panel, meeting at a National Institutes of Health research center in North Carolina, today concurred with a pivotal draft assessment published last month by the National Toxicology Program, an interagency federal body that uses toxicology and molecular biology to evaluate chemicals for possible human health risks.

The NTP assessment found that when test animals coated with a mix of retinyl palmitate and skin cream are exposed to ultraviolet light, a major component of sunlight, the cream with retinyl palmitate has the perverse effect of stimulating the growth of skin tumors.

The panel's action is likely to have a significant impact on the U.S. sunscreen industry, which adds vitamin A to 41 percent of its sunscreens, ostensibly to combat aging. Among the popular brands that contain vitamin A are Coppertone, Banana Boat, Panama Jack, Hawaiian Tropic, and Neutrogena.

Earlier, FDA data had suggested that vitamin A may be photocarcinogenic but the evidence against it was not conclusive.

An independent analysis published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) had determined that there is no evidence that the inclusion of retinyl palmitate in sunscreens can cause cancer in humans.

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