ASMI says action needed to clarify importance of using sunscreens

09 February 2012

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The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products, said today that consumer concerns about nanoparticles in sunscreens need to be addressed to avoid many people risking life-threatening skin cancer.

ASMI was responding to the findings of a study into consumer attitudes to sunscreen, undertaken by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE).

It found that 17% of respondents believe that using no sunscreen is less risky to their health than using a sunscreen containing nanoparticles, while 43% were uncertain.
The Executive Director of ASMI, Dr Deon Schoombie, said that sunscreens play a vital role in public health, and warned of the dangers faced by people who may avoid using sunscreen due to concerns about nanoparticles.

"This research shows that many Australians are concerned about the impact of nanoparticles in sunscreen, despite the weight of scientific evidence indicating that they do not pose a health risk.

"The Therapeutic Goods Administration undertook a review of the scientific literature in 2006 and again in 20091 and concluded that the nanoparticles in zinc oxide and titanium oxide sunscreen remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer of the skin.

"What is indisputable is the importance of regular sunscreen use as part of the strategy to reduce the risk of sun damage and skin cancer as conclusively demonstrated in long term clinical studies2 3. This is a real risk that should far outweigh concerns about nanoparticles.

"Given the degree of public concern detailed in today's report, there may be more that government can do through public health information campaigns to accurately explain the real benefit of sunscreens, including those containing nano-sized particles.
"If, as seems the case, some people are entirely avoiding using sunscreens because of unwarranted concerns, there is a serious health message that needs to be addressed," Dr Schoombie said.

All active ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, must be declared on sunscreen labels, to help consumers make informed choices. The TGA has not identified a requirement for specific safety warnings regarding nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens.
Applying sunscreen to the exposed parts of the body, liberally and carefully before sun exposure is a key element in providing protection against the sun. Other steps include wearing protective clothing, wearing a hat and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure by staying in the shade as much as possible, particularly during the hottest part of the day.
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About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy. www.asmi.com.au

Media contact: Bob Bowden, Foresight Communications (02) 9241 2811, 0412 753 298

References

1 http://www.tga.gov.au/pdf/review-sunscreens-060220.pdf
2 Prolonged Prevention of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin by Regular Sunscreen Use
Jolieke C. van der Pols, Gail M. Williams, Nirmala Pandeya, Valerie Logan and Adèle C. Green
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev March 2011 20:530-536
3 Reduced Melanoma After Regular Sunscreen Use: Randomized Trial Follow-Up
Adèle C. Green, Gail M. Williams, Valerie Logan and Geoffrey M. Strutton
Journal of Clinical Oncology January 20, 2011 vol. 29 no. 3 257-263