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Sun Protection in a Pill?

Rating

3 Star

Sun Protection in a Pill?

Our Review Summary

Sunscreen in a pill sounds very appealing – no more messy sunscreen. But to say that this supplement is still only experimental would be an understatement. To date, the only research that has been conducted has been in very small numbers of people (and animals) in experimental conditions, not the real world. Furthermore, little is known about how the pill compares to sunscreen. This story does a fair job of reporting on this approach while providing the reader with some cautionary information.

The story does mention that the supplement is available over the counter and describes the cost of treatment – $60 for 60 pills. The story should have compared this cost to sunscreen.

Although the story does mention the obvious alternative – sunscreen – it does not mention protective clothing, umbrellas, hats, or just staying out of the sun. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force endorses many interventions to reduce risk of sun-related cancers, all of which are less costly alternatives to the dietary supplement covered in this article.

The story mentions two small but ‘rigorously designed’ studies, but this is not sufficient. To say they were small would be an understatement. Each study had 10 patients or fewer and were exposed to light under experimental conditions, not the real world and the results were not blinded. So the claims on which this article was based may be significantly overstated, although published in a peer-reviewed journal. The article relies heavily on information provided by the lead author of the study, whose work, at least, was funded by the manufacturer. We do not know that the other expert turned to for evaluation of this product is devoid of financial interest in this product. It would have been preferable to quote a spokesperson for an academic society or non-profit organization to provide some additional perspectives. The story does not quantify the benefits of treatment. The story says that “so far no negative side effects have been reported”. This is insufficient information on the harms (or potential harms) of the supplement.

Because this is a “dietary supplement” the company avoids the scrutiny of the FDA. That was not mentioned in the story, but should have been.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does mention the cost of treatment – $60 for 60 pills. The story should have compared this cost to the alternative – sunscreen.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify the benefits of treatment.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story says that “so far no negative side effects have been reported.” This is insufficient.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions two small but ‘rigorously designed’ studies, but this is not sufficient. To say they were small would be an understatement. Each study had 10 patients or fewer and were exposed to light under experimental conditions – not the real world – and the results were not blinded.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not overstate the risk of skin cancer. By focusing on sunburn, rather than skin cancer, the story avoids disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story quotes two physicians, one of whom is the lead author on the articles and was funded by the manufacturer of the product. It would have been preferable to quote a spokesperson for an academic society or non-profit organization to provide some additional perspectives.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story does mention the obvious alternative – sunscreen, it does not mention protective clothing, umbrellas, hats, or just staying out of the sun period.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that this supplement is available over the counter.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not comment on the novelty of this idea. Is oral sun protectant novel? The story should not leave it up to the reader to research whether this is a new idea or not.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole or main source of information.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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