Monday, August 24, 2009

Is sunscreen linked to Alzheimer's disease?


A report in a British newspaper suggests there may be a link.

The frightening possibility of Alzheimer's disease being induced by suncream is being investigated by academics.

Millions of British holidaymakers use block to protect their skin from the sun every year.

Now the University of Ulster says two of its experts have been awarded £350,000 by the European Union to explore the possible links between the suncream and the brain disease.

They are leading a groundbreaking three-year research project into whether human engineered nanoparticles, such as those found in sunscreen, can induce neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

. . .

Professor Vyvyan Howard, a pathologist and toxicologist, and Dr Christian Holster, an expert in Alzheimer's, are conducting the latest research as part of a worldwide project called NeuroNano.

The University of Ulster experts will be specifically looking at nanoparticles present in chemicals found in sunscreens and an additive in some diesel fuels - titanium dioxide and cerium oxide - and their connection to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Professor Howard said: 'There is now firm evidence that some engineered nanoparticles entering intravenously or via lungs can reach the brains of small animals.

'Indeed they lodge in almost all parts of the brain and there are no efficient clearance mechanisms to remove them once there.'

. . .

'It has recently been discovered that nanoparticles can have highly significant impacts on the rate of misfolding of key proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

'The brain itself is a very special organ. It cannot repair by replacing nerve cells, the ones you get at birth have to last all your life, which makes them peculiarly vulnerable to long term low dose toxicity.'

The brain had built up some protective mechanisms but a major worry was that nanoparticles seemed to be able to circumvent them, he said.

. . .

'The risk that engineered nanoparticles could introduce unforeseen hazards to human health is now also a matter of growing concern in many regulatory bodies, governments and industry,' said the professor.


There's more at the link.

That's a scary thought! I don't know how many millions - billions? - of tubes and bottles of sunscreen are used annually, but it's got to be a huge number. I've gone through three or four tubes in a week to protect my face, neck, arms and legs while attending outdoor courses. To be told now that some of the hi-tech sunscreens may have unforeseen and unwanted side effects . . . well, it's a bit late, isn't it? If this is proved to be true, why didn't the manufacturers test for such side effects before marketing their products?

Peter

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If this is proved to be true, why didn't the manufacturers test for such side effects before marketing their products?"

Many times, to play 'devil's advocate,' the Law of Unforseen Consequences takes effect to people's detriment. I doubt such a possibility of a link between sunscreen and brain disorders even occurred to the sunblock manufacturers; after all, it's applied to the -skin-, not the brain. The mere possibility of such a side-effect, whether real or not, is rather outlandish, and would not readily be apparent. It would be like saying Tylenol causes foot fungus - a total disconnect. So, I think the manufacturers can be excused.

And this is even assuming these researchers are right. And even if so, how -much- sunblock does it take, over the years? I read about the Alar apple pesticide scare, some years back... sufficient quantities of Alar caused cancer in lab rats. What was never mentioned in the ensuing panic was that the lab rats received a dose something like a hundred times more than would have been obtained had the rat simply eaten an Alar-treated apple.

Me, I'm not gonna worry about it.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest a broad-brimmed hat and a long sleeve cotton shirt instead of using sun-screen at concerts?

Anonymous said...

It is well known that metals at elevated levels are linked to loss of cognitive ablity.

Lead in paint is well known but also aluminium is linked with the diminished reasoning. So is beer in can a risk? Yes, but at a much lower level than the long term effect of the BTX in the beer.

The dose is always based on time and concentration. Unless your a lifeguard or beach bunny your dose is minimal.

I agree with the post above. The risk of skin cancer for us pasty white boys is greater than the increased risk of Alhzeimers.

Gerry

Wayne Conrad said...

"The brain itself is a very special organ. It cannot repair by replacing nerve cells, the ones you get at birth have to last all your life, which makes them peculiarly vulnerable to long term low dose toxicity."

This established wisdom is now known to be incorrect. Adult brains can and do grow both new neurons and new synapses.

Rachel said...

The overuse of sunscreen is being linked to lots of things. There's an increasing problem with Vitamin D deficiency, and cases of ricketts are on the rise for the first time since the Depression. All because of sunscreen.

Me, I don't wear the stuff. If I wear it I burn like a lobster. If I don't wear, I don't burn.

Loren said...

This sort of thing has been worrying alternative medicine types for years. My grandpa gave us a natural underarm deodorant that doesn't have aluminum in it, for reasons like this.

Too bad we have to wait so long before the fringe sees the light, the roaches flee, and the diamonds stand out.