Do UV filters increase cancer risk?

Do UV filters increase cancer risk?

As the awareness of sun damage and the risks associated with excessive ultraviolet (UV) exposure grows, the use of UV filters in various products has become increasingly common. UV filters are chemicals used as protection against harmful damage caused by UV light. Overexposure to UV light is a well-established risk factor for skin cancer, including malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. These filters are designed to protect our skin and prevent the harmful effects of UV radiation. However, concerns have been raised about whether the UV filters themselves could pose a risk to our health, including the potential to increase the risk of breast cancer. We take a closer look at the hidden dangers of mainstream sun creams with our partner Breast Cancer UK

Understanding UV Filters

There are over 50 synthetic chemicals that are designed to filter UV light which can be found in mainstream sun creams and moisturisers. They are chemical or physical agents incorporated into various products, such as sunscreens, cosmetics, and textiles. Their purpose is to absorb, scatter, or reflect UV radiation, thereby reducing the amount that reaches the skin. Studies have shown that these synthetic chemicals are rapidly absorbed by the skin and have been identified in a range of human tissues, including breast tissue. If you've read our blog Do UV Filters Disrupt Marine Life, you'll already know how toxic they can be.

Common synthetic UV filters include benzophenones (BP-3), octylmethoxycinnamate (OMC), 4-methylbenzilidenecamphor (4-MBC), homosalate and octocrylene.

The Concerns

Breast Cancer UK’s recent research indicates that many of these synthetic UV filters could act as endocrine disruptors - interfering with hormone regulation and potentially increasing the risk of hormone-related cancers, including breast cancer. The research was led by Professor Philippa Darbre from the University of Reading, who has also carried out extensive studies into the link between parabens found in mainstream deodorants and breast cancer.

Professor Darbre says;

“These UV chemical filters are known Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and all possess properties which can mimic natural oestrogen found in our bodies. Lifetime exposure to oestrogen is an established risk factor for breast cancer, as studies have shown that they increase the growth of oestrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells, when cultured under laboratory conditions.”

“Furthermore, at levels we recently detected in human breast tissue, BP-3, OMC and 4-MBC can increase proliferation, migration and invasive properties of human breast cancer cells grown in cell culture. This implies a potential for these UV filters to increase tumour spread. This is especially relevant for breast cancer, where tumour spread is the main cause of mortality.”

A Safer Alternative

It's important to note that UV filters play a crucial role in protecting our skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation, so Breast Cancer UK recommend choosing a safe mineral zinc-oxide-based alternative. Mineral UV sun filters sit on top of the skin rather than being absorbed by it and work by physically reflecting the sun’s rays.

Remember, maintaining a balance between enjoying the sun safely and protecting yourself from its harmful effects is key. The regular use of and appropriate use of safe natural sun screens, along with other sun protection measures like seeking shade and wearing protective clothing, remains the cornerstone of sun safety.

The Green Woman’s own Freedom sun cream provides safe and effective UV protection using an innovative mineral-based formula without the use of synthetic UV filters.

Ready to learn more?

Our blog Do UV Filters Disrupt Marine Life, talks about how these chemicals can accumulate in fish, sea turtles, and other marine species, leading to various health issues, and impact on marine food chains and reefs.