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Sunscreen Pills Are A Thing, But The Thing Is, They Don’t Really Work

June 27, 2018

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By Steve Blanchard

The Food and Drug Administration has asked companies to stop selling so-called sunscreen pills, oral vitamin-like capsules that supposedly protect you from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Why? Because there is no indication that they actually work.

Moffitt Cancer Center doctors warn that there’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen.

Dr. Vernon Sondak, Chair of Moffitt's Cutaneous Oncology Department

“We do not recommend any of these alternatives to standard sunscreens,” said Vernon Sondak, M.D., chair of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb cautions that companies advertising the benefits of a pill that can protect against the sun are “misleading consumers and putting people at risk.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. About one in five Americans are at risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the FDA. Exposure to natural and artificial UV light has a direct impact on a person’s risk of developing skin cancer — despite age or skin type. Most cases of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — can be attributed to UV exposure.

The effects of exposure to UV radiation — whether from the sun or indoor tanning beds — are cumulative, meaning they add up over one’s lifetime. That means the best way to protect yourself is to limit your exposure.

While an oral pill may not work to protect you from the sun, there are other more traditional ways to stay safe outside. Experts recommend sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, as well as hats, long-sleeve shirts and shade.

“Consumers should be watchful for unscrupulous companies making unproven claims,” Gottlieb writes. “When the FDA sees companies taking advantage of people’s desire to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun — we’ll step in. There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen.”