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Sunscreen In A Pill

MIAMI (CBS4) – It's all fun in the sun until the hassle of sunscreen.

There's the oiliness, the residue left behind, the stickiness and have it reapply it.

So what if there was another way? A pill perhaps, derived from a fern extract. The active ingredient: polypodium leucotomos.

"Native Americans for centuries have used this extract to treat inflammatory disorders, some skin diseases," says Dr. Brian Horvath with Horvath Dermatology.

Dr. Horvath says in human and animal studies it has anti-inflammatory effects by protecting the skin from the damage that comes from ultraviolet light.

"On skin biopsies, they had less DNA damage, and that suggests, it may help not just sunburns but also preventing skin cancer, also things like wrinkles, photo damage," Dr. Horvath says.

In fact, he has recommended the product to a handful of patients who have a severe allergy to sunlight.

But he admits, the biggest study only had 12 people in it; the effective dose is not known, whether it's safe for pregnant women and children also is not known and because it's a supplement, the manufacturer is responsible for safety, not the FDA.

Furthermore, it can interact with some heart medicines.

"Regular topical sunscreen has been tested by the FDA. It had an actual SPF number. These pills don't have any of that," Dr. Horvath says.

For these reasons, this over-the-counter supplement which costs about $30 for 60 pills is not meant to take the place of sunscreen, especially for people at high risk for skin cancer.

"I would never rely on the pill alone to protect you from sunburn or skin cancer," Horvath says. "At this stage, it's more of an adjunct. Something you would use with traditional topical sunscreen and maybe also some photo-protective clothing."

For some, though, it would be an alternative worth considering.

"It would be quick and easy," one person said. "Less hassle."

"I might try it if they had other people try it first," another said.

You can buy polypodium in drug stores or online, but it might be difficult. In Europe, the pill is used more commonly, and is also available without a prescription.

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