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Scientific journal publication

Risk-benefit assessment of sunscreen – Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment

Bruzell, Ellen Merete; Carlsen, Monica Hauger; Caspersen, Ida Henriette; Denison, Eva Marie-Louise; Devold, Tove Gulbrandsen; Granum, Berit Brunstad; Mathisen, Gro Haarklou; Rundén-Pran, Elise; Rasinger, Josef; Rohloff, Jens; Svendsen, Camilla; Husøy, Trine

Publication details

Journal: VKM Report, vol. 2022:10, 1–473, 2022

VKM has performed a risk-benefit assessment of sunscreen use and six UV filters. This task
was undertaken on the initiative of a VKM Panel in response to the apparent paradox
between the need for protective measures, such as use of sunscreens, to reduce Norway’s
high incidence and mortality of skin cancer and a consumer concern for the safety of
sunscreens. Concerns include safety of ingredients and sunscreens’ effect on vitamin D
synthesis. Sunscreen products are legally regulated as cosmetic products in the EU, and only
approved UV filters up to a maximum determined concentration are allowed in the ready-foruse preparation.
VKM used a systematic approach to assess risks and benefits of sunscreen use and risks of
six selected UV filters: bis-ethyl-hexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (BEMT), butyl
methoxydibenzoyl methane (BMDBM), 2-ethylhexyl salicylate (EHS), ethylhexyl triazone
(EHT), octocrylene (OC), and titanium dioxide in nanoform (NP-TiO2). These UV filters are
among the most frequently used in sunscreens on the Norwegian market. Sunscreen sprays
and lip products were not included. Scientific publications and reports up to 2020 were
retrieved to assess adverse and protective effects of sunscreen and adverse effects of UV
filters. We assessed risk of bias in the studies and evidence for health outcomes with the aid
of validity tools, and estimated exposure to each UV filter using probabilistic methods.
The evidence showed that sunscreens were beneficial in protecting against certain skin
cancers. Insufficient evidence precluded determination of the hazard associated with
sunscreen use.
The UV filters occurred in concentrations similar to or below the limits set in the EU
cosmetics regulative. VKM considered that little to no hazard was associated with use of the
six evaluated UV filters.
VKM concludes that the risks related to use of the six evaluated UV filters are negligible since
the real-life use of these UV filters is several-fold lower than the amounts that may cause
any adverse health effect. The evidence for harmful health effects of sunscreens is
insufficient to determine risk. Sunscreen use protects against certain skin cancers and is
beneficial for the general Norwegian population.