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Certain Moisturizers Found to Promote Skin Cancer in Mice

Posted: August 20, 2008

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Nouri noted that the radiation damaged the skin of the mice before the moisturizing creams were applied. That, he says, might account for the moisturizers' unusual tumor-promoting effect. However, he noted that the skin cancers are becoming much more common in humans. "There are over a million cases a year," he said. "It is by far the most common cancer we deal with. Skin cancers account for more than half of all cancers combined. But most skin cancers are totally curable."

What is it about the moisturizers that might promote cancer? The Conney team asked Johnson & Johnson to make them a "custom blend" moisturizer without two ingredients previously linked to skin irritation (sodium lauryl sulfate) and tumor promotion (mineral oil). The custom blend, on which Rutgers University and Johnson & Johnson hold a patent, did not promote skin cancer.

But not all of the products tested use these ingredients, so exactly what--if anything--might be linked to cancer isn't known. And it's certainly clear that mouse and human skin are very different.

Moisturizers still necessary

Nouri warned consumers not to stop using moisturizers. "As we get older, our skin gets drier," he said. "We need to moisturize, otherwise our skin gets dry and we get eczema, dermatitis, rashes and so on. It is too soon to say from this study people should stop moisturizing."