Published August 15, 2008
Is there a link between moisturizers and skin cancer?
According to a new study by researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, several commonly used skin creams may cause skin tumors – at least in mice, Reuters reported.
Dr. Allan Conney, professor of cancer and leukemia research at Rutgers, discovered the risk while testing a theory that caffeine could prevent skin cancer, according to the report.
"We sort of got into this by accident," Conney told Reuters. "We wanted a safe cream that we could put the caffeine into."
Conney and colleagues stumbled across the findings after they exposed hairless mice to ultraviolet radiation to mimic sun exposure. Afterward, they applied four popular moisturizers to the mice.
What they found was that all four — Dermabase, Dermavan, Eucerin and Vanicream – caused tumors to grow on the mice.
The cancers were not melanomas, the researchers said in their report, but another type called squamous cell carcinoma.
This type of cancer results when cells in the skin start to change, the National Institutes of Health said on its Web site. It’s relatively slow-growing and can spread to other locations, including internal organs.
Risks for the cancer include:
— Exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation
— A large number of x-rays
— Chemical exposure
— Having light-colored skin, blue or green eyes, or blonde or red hair
— Older age
While researchers said the results should prompt experts to check to see if these creams cause growths in people as well – other experts were quite skeptical of the study.
"This is a pretty artificial situation with the mouse skin primed by a lot of UV light to develop cancer," Karol Sikora, medical director of Cancer Partners U.K. in Britain, said in a statement.
Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma depends on how big the tumor is, its location and how much it has spread. But, the good news is that skin cancer is highly curable if caught early, according to the NIH.
The report is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.