Plant-based photo-protectants in sunscreens
Year after year skin cancer rates continue to rise in the United States. Despite evidence that solar radiation can lead to skin cancer, few behavioral changes have been made to reduce ultraviolet exposure. Sunscreens have been expected to eliminate the risk of radiation yet research suggests that current products do not offer sufficient levels of protection. In response, new substances are being considered to make better sunscreens. Plant based extracts absorb ultraviolet rays and combat oxidative stress; organic UV filters are safer, more stable, and highly efficient; even DNA repair enzymes are being considered to restore molecular damage from UV radiation. Though much of this research is still in the preliminary stage, these approaches provide the basis for improvements in sun protection and will likely be combined with existing UV filters in the future. This article examines alternative compounds being investigated to improve the next generation of sunscreens.
There are more new diagnosed cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, colon and lung cancers (1, 2). Twenty percent of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lives, with the economic cost of treatment a staggering $8.1 billion dollars per year (3-5). Despite these shocking statistics and efforts to inform the public of the carcinogenic role of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, skin cancer rates continue to grow (6). While the depletion of the ozone layer may be contributing to ever climbing skin cancer rates as higher percentages of harmful UV radiation reach the surface of the planet, lifestyle changes have not matched the evolution of our understanding of the disease.
Since the 1980s, the dangers of solar UV radiation have been well known (7). Besides the cosmetic damage of skin aging caused by normal amounts of sun exposure, research has clearly demonstrated that the majority of melanomas (86%) are attributable to solar UV radiation (8). After only five sunburns, the risk for developing melanoma doubles in an individual (9). Tanning beds, which are classified by the FDA as moderate-risk devices, increas ...