People's Pharmacy

May 18, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

I am a breast cancer survivor. I play tennis and golf five days a week and smear a high-SPF sunscreen all over my body. I also wear protective clothing to block the sun.

I have heard that some sunscreens may have estrogenic activity. I'm supposed to avoid estrogen, so can you tell me more about sunscreens and estrogen?

Several common ingredients in sunscreens have been shown to act like estrogen. One test-tube study showed that breast-cancer cells grew faster in the presence of such compounds.

Another study showed that sunscreen ingredients are absorbed through the skin and can be measured in the urine (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, July 2004). The significance of this finding for adults remains controversial, but the authors warn that young children may be vulnerable to hormonal disruption from such sunscreens.

Until this issue has been resolved, it might be prudent to stick with protective clothing. (Check sun or Sunscreens that contain physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide don't have hormonal effects and are safe for young children and people with sensitive skin (The Lancet online, May 3).

For the past year, I have had problems with whitehead blemishes on my face that wouldn't go away. I tried many things, including nonoily soaps and a range of topical treatments.

Recently, I started putting Citrus Listerine on each blemish at night. Within a week, one blemish started breaking down, and others began to do so in the next few days. They are all smaller, and several have completely disappeared.

Blemishes have a tendency to come and go. Hormones, stress and possibly even diet may have an impact. Citrus Listerine contains components of orange, tangerine, lemon and grapefruit in addition to eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, thymol and alcohol. Your positive response might be coincidental, or you might have found a new use for Listerine.

My wife suffers from debilitating leg cramps. For years she has relied on quinine, but she recently discovered that she can no longer get her prescription filled and is feeling desperate. We've heard that quinine is available in Canada and only costs about $35 for 100 pills. How can we locate a reliable Canadian pharmacy?

The Food and Drug Administration has made it almost impossible to get quinine for leg cramps. Although many people have used quinine safely for years, others are so vulnerable to its toxic effects that the FDA has determined the drug is too dangerous except to treat malaria.

Although quinine is still available in Canada with a doctor's prescription, you could run afoul of U.S. Customs and the FDA.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

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