Benefit and risk of organic ultraviolet filters.Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2001 Jun; 33(3):285-99.RT
Modern sunscreen products provide broad-spectrum UV protection and may contain one or several UV filters. A modern UV filter should be heat and photostable, water resistant, nontoxic, and easy to formulate. Identification of a substance that meets these criteria is as difficult as discovering a new drug; hundreds of new molecules are synthesized and screened before a lead candidate is identified. The most important aspect in the development of a new UV filter is its safety. In our laboratories, the safety of new ultraviolet filters is assessed by an initial in vitro screen including photostability, cytotoxicity, photocytotoxicity, genotoxicity, and photogenotoxicity tests. These tests are performed in mammalian, yeast, and bacterial cell systems. Skin penetration potential is measured in vitro using human skin or, when required by regulations, in vivo. Because modern sunscreens are selected on the basis of their retention on and in the stratum corneum and are formulated as poorly penetrating emulsions, they generally have very low to negligible penetration rates. The safety and efficacy of UV filters are regulated and approved by national and international health authorities. Safety standards in the European Union, United States, or Japan stipulate that new filters pass a stringent toxicological safety evaluation prior to approval. The safety dossier of a new UV filter resembles that of a new drug and includes acute toxicity, irritation, sensitization, phototoxicity, photosensitization, subchronic and chronic toxicity, reproductive toxicity, genotoxicity, photogenotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and, in the United States, photocarcinogenicity testing. The margin of safety of new UV filters for application to humans is estimated by comparing the potential human systemic exposure with the no-effect level from in vivo toxicity studies. Only substances with a safe toxicological profile and a margin of safety of at least 100-fold are approved for human use. Finally, prior to marketing, new UV filters undergo stringent human testing to confirm their efficacy as well as the absence of irritation, sensitization, photoirritation, and photosensitization potential in man. UV filters not only protect against acute skin injury, such as sunburn, but also against long-term and chronic skin damage, including cellular DNA damage, photoinduced immune suppression, and, by extension, skin cancer. The protection provided by modern sunscreens against UV-induced skin cancer was shown in animal photocarcinogenicity studies and confirmed by numerous in vitro, animal, and human investigations: UV filters protect the p53 tumor suppressor gene from damage and prevent UV-induced immune suppression. Recent studies suggest that sunscreens protect against precursor lesions of skin cancer, such as actinic keratoses. Additional benefits of ultraviolet filters include prevention of photodermatoses, such as polymorphic light eruption, and, possibly, photoaging. Modern sunscreens are safe for children and adults. Percutaneous penetration and irritation rates of topically applied substances in children and adults are similar. The principal protective measure is to keep children out of the sun and/or to cover them with protective clothes; however, sunscreens are a safe and effective and often the only feasible defense of children against UV radiation. In conclusion, sunscreens are safe protective devices that undergo stringent safety and efficacy evaluation.