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Fake Tanning Equals Fertility Risk

a blog by Claire, July 23, 2012

We all know tanning in the sun or in a tanning booth equals increased risk of skin cancer. And then they tell us while sunscreens can help protect our skin from the sun, they can also wreak havoc on our hormones.

OK, OK ... the next solution is fake and bake sunless tanning. We can put up with orange hands to get that sun-kissed glow. And at least it's safe, right?

Well, um, actually, no.

Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency, has told news agencies that the chemicals contained in sunless tanning products "may be a contributing factor behind the significant increases in cancers, diabetes, obesity and falling fertility."

Well that's just great. We're just trying to get a little tan on. Why does it have to be so difficult … and dangerous?

Like some sunscreens, these fake tanning products have endocrine disrupting compounds, such as benzophenone-3 and oxybenzone. These are chemicals that cause problems with your hormones, and we all know what that can do to your fertility.

Oh, and let's not forget, the experts have pointed out that fake tanning products also contain carcinogens — yes, cancer-causing agents — such as formaldehyde and nitrosamines. The active ingredient in fake tanning products is dihydroxyacetone. It reacts with the amino acids on the skin to turn it brown. The chemical is often inhaled and absorbed into the bloodstream, and some scientists say it could damage DNA and cause tumors.

"The substances in the products are thought to be related to, or actually are, mutagenic and carcinogenic," says Edward Marut, M.D., a fertility doctor with Fertility Centers of Illinois. "That means they can cause fetal anomalies and cancer. No one knows the extent of exposure needed to increase these risks, but since there is no health benefit to tanning at all, stay away! Fifteen minutes in the sun a day maximizes the production of Vitamin D needed for general health."

Now, no tests or research has been done on humans to find out if fake tanning products really do cause all these problems, and cosmetic manufacturers insist the products are safe.

"The fact that studies show such substance as dihydroxyacetone can cause DNA changes in lab experiments is not surprising," says fertility doctor Kevin Lederer, M.D., also with Fertility Centers of Illinois. "There are zero studies translating these findings into human disease, including cancer, so the risk is largely unknown. Sun damage certainly causes DNA changes, hence the increasing threat of melanoma in the U.S., which is the fastest growing cancer. It is more important to avoid the known risk of sun damage. But vanity is high price to pay for the theoretic risk of these tanning products even when the true harm is unknown."

You know, when you're trying so hard to get pregnant — or hold onto a pregnancy and have a healthy baby — pale skin may be just one sacrifice that's not too hard to make.


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