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Exposure to Chemicals in Sunscreen

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While chemicals can protect us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, research strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in some sunscreen products may cause cancer in people.

Many of these chemicals are considered hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body, by blocking them or mimicking them, which throws off the body's hormonal balance. Because estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow, many women choose to limit their exposure to these chemicals that can act like estrogen.

Steps you can take

Instead of spraying on a chemical sunscreen, wear a wide-brim hat that covers your face and a shirt with extra-long sleeves (long enough to cover your hands), and a long skirt or pants. If you can't cover up with clothes or carry an umbrella, look for a sunscreen that contains zinc or titanium. These minerals reflect ultraviolet rays and aren't potential hormone disruptors. You also may want to avoid going outside when the sun is at its peak, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy organization based in the United States. The EWG has released a sunscreen ranking guide based on possible harmful ingredients as well as the products' ability to protect. Visit the EWG Sunscreen Guide.


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