Washington: Contrary to popular belief that sunscreen protects bodies from overexposure and possibly from skin cancer, researchers are discovering that the product may not be so safe after all.Cell toxicity studies by Dr. Yinfa Ma, Curators’ Teaching Professor of chemistry at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his graduate student Qingbo Yang, suggest that when exposed to sunlight, zinc oxide, a common ingredient in sunscreens, undergoes a chemical reaction that may release unstable molecules known as free radicals.Free radicals seek to bond with other molecules, but in the process, they can damage cells or the DNA contained within those cells. This in turn could increase the risk of skin cancer.Ma also found that the longer zinc oxide is exposed to sunlight, the greater the potential damage to human cells.“Zinc oxide may generate free radicals when exposed to UV (ultraviolet) sunlight,” May said, “and those free radicals can kill cells.”Ma studied how human lung cells immersed in a solution containing nano-particles of zinc oxide react when exposed to different types of light over numerous time frames.Using a control group of cells that were not immersed in the zinc oxide solution, Ma compared the results of light exposure on the various groups of cells. He found that zinc oxide-exposed cells deteriorated more rapidly than those not immersed in the chemical compound.
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