Sunscreen Could Increase Risk of Endometriosis: Study

A new study suggests that some ingredients commonly used in sunscreen and finger nail polish could increase the risk of endometriosis, which may lead to gynecological problems in women. 

In a report published in the medical journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found what they believe to be links between Benzophenone-based UV filters widely used in personal care products and an increased risk of cells that usually line the uterus growing outside of the uterine cavity, a condition known as endometriosis.

Endometriosis can increase the risk of cysts, infertility, chronic pelvic pain and complications during pregnancy. It can be treated via medication or surgery.

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Researchers looked at the concentration of several kinds of chemicals in the urine of more than 600 women who were diagnosed with endometriosis. They found that women with high amounts of benzophenone-1 in their urine had a 65% increased risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis.

Benzophenone-1 is used in nail polish and is created when the body breaks down oxybenzone, one of the main ingredients in sunscreen.

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit watchdog group focused on the environment and human health.

Officials from the Personal Care Products Council, an industry lobbying group, derided the study as weak and misleading. The group says that the products and chemicals used in them have been vigorously tested by health officials in the U.S. and other countries and are so safe that they are sold as over-the-counter products.

“By challenging the medical and scientific consensus that sunscreen products are safe and effective, the EWG report defies the scientific assessments of sunscreen products and ingredients by regulatory authorities in the U.S., E.U., and Canada,” Farah Ahmed, chair of the Personal Care Products Council Sunscreen Task Force, said in a press release issued last week.

The report came out just days after the FDA announced that it was delaying for at least six months the implementation of new regulations on how sunscreen products must be labeled and sold. The regulations were issued in June 2011, but implementation has been delayed until at least December 2012, after the industry complained that it could not meet the new requirements by the original June 2012 implementation date. Smaller companies already have until December 2013.

EWG blasted the delay, saying the regulations were already weak and that the FDA surrendered public safety to industry.

“We are baffled that FDA deems it necessary to delay such weak regulations,” the group said in a press release. “The agency has caved to industry pressure every step of the way.”

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