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Can Tretinoin Cause Cancer?

by Ella Goodman 16 Jan 2020

Tretinoin, which you might recognize by its brand name Retin-A, is one of the most effective treatments available for acne and for rejuvenating the skin, reducing the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, along with preventing premature aging of the skin. In some circles, tretinoin is considered nothing short of a miracle worker, and has earned quite a following.

As more people are turning to Tretinoin to solve their skincare woes, the question comes up as to whether it’s safe, especially for long term use. When it comes to questioning the safety of a product, there’s one concern that tends to rank higher than all others, and that’s whether a product has the potential to increase your risk of cancer in any way. Tretinoin is FDA-approved, but does that mean it is free of any side effects or long-term consequences? Is cancer a concern among tretinoin users? Let’s take a closer look.

Tretinoin and the Cancer Connection

A bit more than a decade ago, there was a study that seemed to possibly link the connection between topical tretinoin and an increased risk of cancer. While this study made a few headlines in the medical community, there are some things to consider before ditching your Retin-A prescription. First, it was a rather small study. But what really needs to be looked at is that the subjects used a strength of tretinoin that far exceeds what is commonly prescribed for skincare concerns. This would indicate that the advice and guidance of the medical professional who prescribes your Retin-A should weigh more in your decision than the results of this one study.

What is interesting about the connection between tretinoin and cancer is that in certain applications, it has been shown to actually decrease the risk of skin cancer is some cases. These results were shown in a study that looked at the effects of oral tretinoin rather than topical applications. Topical tretinoin, including Retin-A, wasn’t shown to produce any marked increase in skin cancer prevention.

Side Effects of Tretinoin and How They May Relate to Cancer

Tretinoin is available only through prescription, and with good reason. For starters, it’s easy to underestimate the potential side effects of a topical skincare treatment. We’re accustomed to slathering on lotions, creams, and serums without really thinking about potential negative side effects. Tretinoin is known to produce some mild side effects, which can become exaggerated when used in a manner other than indicated by the prescribing health professional.

One of the side effects that’s most important to be aware of is an enhanced sensitivity to the sun. Exposure to UV rays leads to premature aging, and it’s also the culprit behind most cases of skin cancer. There are several factors that play into just how damaging the sun is for your skin, including the amount of melanin in your skin, but no one should consider themselves immune from sun damage.

The mechanisms through which tretinoin work to produce its skin-enhancing results are the very same factors that make skin more vulnerable to UV rays. If you’re using tretinoin, it’s important that you make a habit of liberally applying sunscreen before you even think about heading outdoors. Even if you stay inside, sunscreen is still a good idea because there are plenty of UV rays that make their way through the windows of your house, office and car.

Do you need sunscreen in addition to what may be provided in your moisturizer or cosmetics? It’s best to consider the sunscreen in your cosmetics and skincare products as an added bonus that will enhance the effectiveness of any additional sunscreen you use. They’re really not enough on their own to provide the sun protection coverage you need, especially if you’re using tretinoin or any type of retinoid product.

The good news here is that if you follow the usage instructions carefully, and apply sunscreen as you should, tretinoin can be effective in reversing some of the damage that has been caused by sun damage in the past.

Is There a Better Alternative to Tretinoin?

The very mention of cancer in association with tretinoin might be enough for you to reconsider using it at all. It’s always best to discuss your concerns with a qualified medical professional but rest assured, if you decide to forgo tretinoin, there are gentler retinol alternatives that can be equally effective in addressing some of your skin care issues.

One such example is a retinoid cream that is formulated with complementary ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and plant stem cells. A high-quality retinol product such as Admire My Skin’s Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream can produce results that are on par with prescription strength tretinoin, without the need to take a trip to your pharmacy, the unwanted side effects, or the concerns about long-term use.

With your skincare, as with everything, knowledge is key. Take the time to learn the facts about tretinoin to decide if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, know that there are gentler alternatives available to help you achieve a beautifully radiant complexion.

Looking for a Retinol product that is proven to work? Click here.

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