Morsani College of Medicine

Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery

Telling the Truth about Sunscreen and Skin Cancer


Recently some are stating that sunscreen containing retinyl palmitate can cause skin cancer. This is not true. The FDA scientists have demonstrated that retinyl palmitate of 0.1% or 0.5% applied in the morning to hairless rats and then exposed to four hours of UV-exposure was associated with increased growth rates of skin tumors and lesions, not skin cancer. However, the study failed to demonstrate that the retinyl palmitate causes cancer and does not demonstrate if these same effects are seen in humans. Even if retinyl palmitate increased growth rates of skin tumors and lesions in humans, often good skin cancer surveillance by your self and your dermatologist would decrease the risk of bad outcomes related to skin cancer. Multiple studies have shown that proper use of sunscreens do prevent skin cancer from developing. And monthly self skin cancer surveillance and yearly or more often skin exams by a dermatologist increases the probability of early detection in return decreasing the risk of skin cancer from causing long term damage or even death. Long story short sunscreen prevents skin cancer and regular skin monitoring aids in early detection and treatment leading to great outcomes.  

Written by: Robin McClain MSN, ARNP-C

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See Articles on Proper Use of Sunscreen and What to Look for in Your Sunscreen.(links below)