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Skin-Whitening Products May Cause Skin Cancer
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Skin-Whitening Products May Cause Skin Cancer.
Skin whitening, the process of reducing melanin concentration in the skin to achieve a lighter complexion, often involves the use of topical agents containing substances like hydroquinone, mercury, or corticosteroids.
While this practice is prevalent among different populations, it is associated with potential adverse effects, including skin irritation, mercury poisoning, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Skin whitening practices are common in the United States, particularly among people of color, especially women.
However, according to a recent study by Northwestern Medicine, many users of these products may not be fully aware of the associated risks.
The study further revealed that colorism often fuels these practices, with colorism being a societal bias that favors lighter skin, associating it with greater attractiveness and benefits. The research findings further confirmed the prevalence of skin whitening in the United States.
“The most surprising finding was the lack of awareness among people about the ingredients and potential harmful effects of over-the-counter products,” said Dr. Roopal Kundu, the lead researcher, and Founder/Director of the Center for Ethnic Skin and Hair at Northwestern Medicine. “These products are readily available in chain grocery stores, community shops, or even online, without the same level of regulation as larger retail chains or prescription products.”
Dr. Kundu is also a Professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a board-certified dermatologist.
This study will be published on July 13th in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology.
Previous research has indicated that these products often contain toxic substances such as steroids and mercury that can be harmful to the skin.
One of Dr. Kundu’s patients had been using a skin whitening product containing hydroquinone (a bleaching agent) on their entire face for years and now suffers from permanent pigmentary changes.
Doctors may prescribe skin whitening agents for certain skin conditions, such as melasma, when used under medical guidance, they can be used safely. However, Dr. Kundu noted that most individuals using skin whitening agents do not consult a physician before use.
In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of serious side effects, including rashes, facial swelling, and exogenous ochronosis (skin discoloration), associated with the use of hydroquinone-containing skin whitening products.
The study showed that participants who used skin whitening products, 80% of whom were women, experienced a stronger perception of colorism in their daily lives compared to those who did not use these products.
“There’s a perception that, within a community, whether it’s Southeast Asian or African, people with lighter skin are more desirable, seen as more attractive to potential partners or more likely to find employment. Lighter skin is perceived as being closely tied to personal and professional success,” said Dr. Kundu.
While most patients are interested in skin whitening to even out skin tone due to skin conditions, a quarter of the study participants aimed for general skin lightening. Dr. Kundu recently had a patient who expressed a desire to completely lighten their skin, to which she responded, “We cannot globally lighten your skin; it’s not something we can achieve.”
To conduct this research, the researchers sent an anonymous survey with 19 questions to individuals of color in the United States, inquiring about their demographics, attitudes toward colorism, satisfaction with their skin tone, and skin whitening habits. Out of the 455 respondents, 238 were Black, 83 were Asian, 84 were multiracial, 31 were Hispanic, 14 were American Indian or Alaska Native, and 5 were of other ethnicities.
21.3% of respondents reported using skin whitening agents, with 75.3% of them using these agents to treat skin conditions such as acne, melasma, or pigmentation issues. Other respondents used these agents for general skin whitening.
“As dermatologists, we want to understand the cultural and societal factors that influence skin health and skin disease treatment. Clinical physicians need to be aware of cultural factors when treating patients dealing with pigmentary issues, to provide safe, effective, comprehensive, and empathetic care for all communities,” said Dr. Kundu.
Skin-Whitening Products May Cause Skin Cancer
(source:internet, reference only)