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    Sunscreen safety and efficacy


    Dr. Norman Levine: Is there any legitimate concern with sunscreens getting in the water supply or polluting rivers?

    Dr. Darrell S. Rigel: Again, these agents are made of chemicals. When you look at hypothetical risks that have been raised by people with the exposure to these chemicals, there may be legitimacy in theory. However, the flip side of this is, tens of millions of Americans use these agents with these chemicals every weekend all summer, and we are not seeing anything close to what’s been suggested might happen with these hypotheses. So in a sense, we are doing the experiment indirectly and unintentionally, but we are not seeing some of the things you’d expect to be potentially problematic.

    Dr. Norman Levine: Would you clarify the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and sunscreen use?

    Dr. Darrell S. Rigel: Vitamin D deficiency and sunscreen use has been pretty much refuted. Clearly, if you regularly use high-intensity sunscreens and you minimize your sun exposure, you are going to have a lower vitamin D level than somebody who does not. But, the way vitamin D is converted in your skin through its usual form, you get about one-third of an MED of exposure, and then the system is overloaded, so you don’t get more beyond that one-third of the MED. So you are not just getting anything extra from the extra exposure, and if you are worried about your vitamin D level being low because you protect yourself so much in the sun, what you can do is take vitamin D supplements. They are inexpensive, they are effective, and they have been pre-converted for you.

    Remember vitamin D is not made in the skin; it’s converted through its usable form in the skin. So if you take vitamin D pills and they are pre-converted, you do not need any kind of UV exposure. You can get high vitamin D levels without having to get any of the risks of UV exposure.

    NEXT: Pulses and minuses of sunblocks versus sunscreens

    Norman Levine, M.D.
    Norman Levine, M.D., is a private practitioner in Tucson, Ariz. He also is a member of the Dermatology Times Editorial Advisory board ...


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