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Senator Urges FDA to Rule on Key Sunscreen Ingredient Linked to Skin Cancer

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As summer gets underway, many of us will be heading outdoors to the beach, lake or swimming pool. No doubt, sunscreen will be among the essentials we’ll pack for a day of soaking up the sun and surf. And that’s good, right? Maybe. Key ingredients found in most sunscreens may not be protecting us from skin cancer, but rather promoting it.

Several studies have raised concerns over the potential link between retinyl palmitate— a synthetic vitamin A derivative added to sunscreens and cosmetics—and skin cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been reviewing the data since July 2009, but has yet to provide a ruling, says U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-NY).

Schumer is urging the FDA to make public their reviews and assessments of the data as soon as possible "so as not to undermine consumer confidence in the protective value and safety of sunscreen products."

“Considering the serious implications of the studies and the fact that consumers use sunscreen products to protect themselves from UV rays and skin cancer, consumers deserve to hear the FDA’s evaluation of the data immediately,” he said in a statement issued this week calling on the agency to provide final assessment on the ruling along with guidance and reassurance to consumers.

Studies from the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) have suggested a possible link between skin cancer and retinyl palmitate, an ingredient added to most of the 500 top-selling sunscreen products for its skin-conditioning properties. It is also commonly found in many anti-aging products. Scientists at the NCTR and the NTP have been working diligently over the last decade at the FDA’s request to determine whether retinyl palmitate is safe to use in sunscreen products.

Use of retinyl palmitate has been restricted in Canada for use in cosmetic products. Ironically, retinyl palmitate “may cause you to become more sensitive to sunlight,” according to The Performace Leader, a health and beauty products review website.

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