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Some of the world’s most popular sunscreens risk causing cancer if left on the shelf too long because a commonly used sun protection factor breaks down into a harmful ingredient, top US and French researchers claim.

Millions of Britons keep unfinished tubes and re-use them month – or even years – later. However, a Franco-American study has found that if left for a year at room temperature, such products become potentially toxic as one of their key ingredients breaks down into a product called benzophenone, described as a “mutagen, carcinogen, and endocrine disruptor”.

Scientists made the discovery after experiments on nine commercial sunscreen products from the European Union and eight from the United States. 

Many of the brands can also be found in the UK.

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