Moisturizers Up Skin Cancer in Mice
4 Commonly Used Moisturizing Creams Promote Tumors in UV-Exposed Mice
Testing Moisturizers for Safety continued...
The moisturizers did not cause cancer in the mice. That came from their
early-life radiation exposure. But the creams did make skin cancers grow faster
and more readily.
Nouri notes 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 notes that the skin cancers are becoming much more common in
"There are over a million cases a year," he says. "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 warns consumers not to stop using moisturizers.
"As we get older, our skin gets drier," he says. "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."
Eucerin is made by Beiersdorf Inc.
"We have just learned about this study and are currently reviewing it to
understand the findings," Beiersdorf says in a statement to WebMD.
"Eucerin Original Creme has been on the market for more than 100 years and
is a highly respected, dermatologist-recommended brand. It has been widely used
by both individuals with normal skin and those with diseased skin under the
care of physicians, and no incidents of this nature have ever been
Vanicream is made by Pharmaceutical Specialties Inc. In a statement to
WebMD, PSI President Conrad O. Thompson, RPh, says there is nothing in the
Conney study to indicate any need for change in current recommendations for use
"Treatment with Vanicream Skin Cream clearly did not increase the
proportion of animals that developed tumors," Thompson notes.
Dermovan, a wholesale-only product
used as a base to which other ingredients are added by compounding pharmacists,
was made by Healthpoint Ltd. until the product was discontinued in
"The product has been around
for 50 years, and has no safety issues related to it," Healthpoint
spokesman Mark Mitchell tells WebMD.
Dermabase maker Paddock
Laboratories Inc. did not respond to WebMD's request for comment.
The Conney study appears in the Aug. 14 advance online issue of the
Journal of Investigative Dermatology.