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Research Letter
July 2011

Safety of Oxybenzone: Putting Numbers Into Perspective

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Dermatology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York (Dr Wang and Mr Burnett); Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan (Dr Lim).

Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(7):865-866. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.173

Oxybenzone, an organic UV-B and short-wave UV-A filter, has been available for over 40 years1; it is widely used in sunscreens and other consumer products in the United States.2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated the prevalence of oxybenzone exposure in the general US population to be 96.8%.3 In the past few years, oxybenzone has received increasing attention as a potentially harmful compound. Initial concerns arose when a report demonstrated systemic absorption of oxybenzone in humans at a rate of 1% to 2% after topical application.4 Similar or higher rates of cutaneous absorption in human subjects have been observed.5-9 The potential for biological effects, however, were first published in a study by Schlumpf et al10 demonstrating uterotropic effects in immature rats after oral administration of oxybenzone; it should be noted that the estrogenic effect detected was less than 1 million-fold of estradiol, the positive control used. Nonetheless, this study has served as the basis for considerable concern among the public.

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