Elevated cancer rates fuel questions over sunscreen chemicals

    Senator Charles Schumer questions whether a popular sunscreen chemical might be linked to skin cancer.

    Skin cancer rates have increased over the last thirty years, despite the good advice of doctors to wear sunscreen. Some consumer groups and a U-S senator are questioning whether sunscreen has something to do with the uptick.

    Most sunscreens contain a chemical called retinyl palmitate. The FDA had issued a study examining whether the chemical is toxic or cancer causing. Senator Charles Schumer and others are pressing the agency to make a conclusion on the chemical’s safety.

    Maurice Thew, a dermatologist in Wilmington, thinks it’s worth asking some questions about the chemical.

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    “One of the problems is, why are we still seeing so many skin cancers?” he asks. “Is it possible, because they’re using the sunscreen?”

    Others say sunscreen is unlikely to be the cause, but rather, people don’t use enough of it. Thew agrees with the last point.

    “What is absolutely sure is that the sun causes skin cancer, particularly the sun burn rays,” he said.

    An FDA spokesperson said in an email that it is premature to issue any guidelines on retinyl palmitate. The agency is waiting for a final report from the National Toxicology Project.

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