Customer says Neutrogena sunscreen gave her leukemia

@cass_knox/TikTok Arne Beruldsen/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘They found benzene in it’: Customer says Neutrogena sunscreen gave her leukemia

‘I’m like 100% positive that a sunscreen I was using gave me blood cancer.’


Stacy Fernandez


In a viral video, a woman alleges that a since-recalled Neutrogena sunscreen caused her leukemia, also known as blood cancer.

“Let’s do a little storytime about how I’m like 100% positive that a sunscreen I was using gave me blood cancer,” says Cassie Knox (@cass_knox), who was diagnosed with cancer at 21.

Given that the cancer wasn’t genetic, Knox kept asking her doctors how she could have gotten cancer, wondering if it was something she did or her lifestyle.

They asked if she’d come into contact with high levels of the chemical benzene through recreational drugs or by working in a factory. The public is usually exposed to benzene in the air through tobacco smoke, vehicle exhaust, glues, paints, detergents, and industrial emissions.

Experts say benzene exposure can cause cancer

Various health institutions—including the Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the Environmental Protection Agency—determined that long-term exposure (considered a year or more) to benzene causes cancer in humans, specifically leukemia which is blood cancer.

Knox said she hadn’t been in contact with the chemical but thought maybe it was in one of the products she used as a hairstylist. She went through every product and came back empty.

“As I’m in the hospital for that month or so getting put into remission, the sunscreen that I had been using for years and years comes up on the [TV] screen and says in big letters that it’s recalled because they found benzene in it,” Knox recalls in the clip.

She had been using the yellow bottle of Neutrogena Beach Defence aerosol sunscreen for at least two-plus years.

What sunscreens were recalled?

In July 2021, Johnson & Johnson, Neutrogena’s parent company, recalled five total personal sunscreen lines from both Neutrogena and Aveeno. While benzene is not an ingredient in any of the brands’ sunscreen products, it was detected in some samples.

This announcement came about a month and a half after an independent Valisure analysis found high levels of benzene in several brands and batches of sunscreen. On May 25, 2021, Valisure released its findings and urged companies to recall contaminated products, and requested that the FDA better define limits for benzene contamination in drug and cosmetic products.

While Valisure classified the benzene levels as “high” in its recall statement, Johnson & Johnson said their internal testing found “low” levels of the carcinogen.

The recall affected the following products:

  • Neutrogena Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen
  • Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
  • Neutrogena Invisible Daily defense aerosol sunscreen
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer aerosol sunscreen
  • Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen

As of June 2024, an appeals court rejected a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen products, but the company may still face individual lawsuits.

Knox said she’s been in contact with lawyers to potentially bring on a case.

Is sunscreen safe to use?

While benzene was found in some sunscreen products, it’s important to note that this chemical isn’t usually found in sunscreen products. Plus, there’s no medical evidence suggesting that other sunscreens cause cancer.

“However, there is a lot of evidence that UV rays from the sun and tanning beds do,” the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center stated.

Sunscreen products are still an important part of skin routines since they can help protect you from harmful radiation.

@cass_knox Replying to @caylee.nicole12 sunscreen was recalled for a chemical being in it that causes cancer, Acute Myeloid Leukemia #cancersucks🎗 #AMLsurvivor #badsunscreens #cancercausingchemicals #fypシ゚viral ♬ original sound – Cassie

“Sun safety is important for everyone and all skin colors, and consumers can reduce risks from sun exposure with continued use of sun protection measures, including sunscreen,” the FDA stated.

“FDA recommends consumers use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of at least 15, which have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used with other sun protection measures.”

In addition to wearing sunscreen, you can keep yourself safe from sun damage by wearing protective clothes like long sleeves, wide hats, and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.

The Daily Dot reached out to Knox and Johnson & Johnson for comment via email.

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