General Interests

Sunscreen and Male Fertility

Read below to learn more about sunscreen and how it may impact male fertility

Sunscreen has been all over the news recently, and it’s not just because it is summer. This summer, however, there have been a number of voluntary recalls by sunscreen brands after independent testing had found they were contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical called benzene.

Some may be surprised to learn that skin is actually the largest organ in the body and is very complex. It has many functions like working as a barrier to the outside world, helping to fight off bugs, allergens, and toxins, and helping to regulate body temperature. You may be aware that skin also has properties that allow for the absorption of chemicals—called dermal absorption, which is the transport of chemicals from the outer skin into the skin and into the body.  Chemicals can enter the body and bloodstream, impact health as well as cause health problems.

Researchers have started to look into the questions of whether or not certain sunscreen chemicals impact male fertility. A 2014 NIH study looked into this question, and according to the study findings completed by NIH and New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth, certain chemicals used to protect against UV rays may impair men’s ability to father children in a timely manner.

There were a number of study limitations, and researchers caution that the results are preliminary and that additional studies are needed to confirm findings.

One of the Doctors commenting on the study findings by saying, “Sunscreen is important for sun protection, and we definitely encourage people to continue using sunscreen to avoid skin cancer. But men who are concerned about fertility may be interested in other ways to reduce their exposure to benzophenone UV filters—whether by cutting back on other products that contain the UV filters or by washing after returning indoors.”

A 2016 study looked at UV-filtering chemicals on human sperm cell function. The study found that “many UV-filtering chemicals commonly used in sunscreen interfere with the function of human sperm cells, and mimic the effect of the female hormone progesterone.” The senior investigator or the study said that “these results are of concern and might explain in part why unexpected infertility is so prevalent.” The lead investigator further called for clinical studies in the space to investigate whether chemical UV filters affect human fertility.

There is more research that needs to be done in this space evaluating the connection between UV-filtering chemicals in sunscreens and male fertility.

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