Sunscreens containing Benzophenone linked to Endometriosis

sunscreen endometriosis

In a recent report published in the ACS’ journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers have drawn attention to the fact that an important ingredient of many sunscreens, benzophenone, when absorbed through the skin, mimics the action of estrogen and may be linked to the development of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a common gynecological disorder affecting every one in ten women belonging to the reproductive age group. The condition results when the endometrium lining the uterine cavity develops outside the uterus in other areas of the body. It is characterized by severe pain in abdomen and lower back region, menstrual irregularities and may even lead to infertility. Endometriosis is an estrogen dependent condition.

Benzophenone containing UV filters are widely used in a variety of personal care products as they are effective in blocking the harmful UV rays. Although such products are meant for external use, some amount of benzophenone is invariably absorbed through the skin. Benzophenone derivatives are believed to possess estrogen like properties. In a first of its kind study, the researchers led by Kurunthachalam Kannan, tried to explore the possible link between the usage of benzophenone containing sunscreens and the development of endometriosis.

For their study, the researchers selected 625 women from Utah and California, who had undergone surgery for endometriosis. Their urine samples were examined for the presence of benzophenone and its derivatives, namely 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone (2OH-4MeO-BP), 2,4-dihydroxybenzophenone (2,4OH-BP), 2,2′-dihydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone (2,2′OH-4MeO-BP), 2,2′,4,4′-tetrahydroxybenzophenone (2,2′,4,4′OH-BP),and 4-hydroxybenzophenone (4OH-BP). It was seen that patients with endometriosis excreted high amounts of 2,4OH-benzophenone in their urine. The researchers also noticed that the concentration of benzophenone derivatives in urine showed regional differences (higher levels in California) and also varied according to the season (highest in July and August).

The researchers have opined that women in California use sunscreens more frequently owing to the sunny weather. The use of sunscreens is especially high during the summer months. They have therefore hypothesized that exposure to increased concentration of 2,4OH benzophenone may be associated with endometriosis.

Date: 
Saturday, June 23, 2012