Does Vitamin A (most commonly used as retinyl palmitate) cause skin cancer?
Retinyl palmitate has been added to over-the-counter sunscreens which are marketed as preventing the damaging effects of sun exposure on the skin: premature aging and skin cancer. Last month a widely touted study was published which purports to show that this agent can cause skin cancer! What is this all about? Do we all need to stop using retinyl-palmitate-containing sun screens?
In 2000 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a study to look at the cancer causing potential of topical Vitamin A derivatives. A study was commissioned that studied mice given various doses of retinyl palmitate and various amounts of ultraviolet light (simulating sun exposure). There was a clear relationship between retinyl palmitate and skin cancer (squamous cell carcinomas) at doses that simulated human use. On that basis the Environment Working Group issued a strong report calling retinyl palmitate a carcinogen. This conclusion has come under brisk attack because what happens in mice is often not applicable to humans. I know of no plans on the part of drug companies to take retinyl palmitate out of sun screens, but the issue is not settled.
+ Read more about tanning booths and Dr. Stark’s comments at the BS 757 blog.