When sun-worshipping Aussies stop slathering themselves with SPF, you know something’s up. More than three out of five Australians have concerns about the health implications of nanoparticles, according to a survey commissioned by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. In fact, 17 percent of respondents said they would rather risk skin cancer than wear a product containing nanoparticles. The results of the study, which were highlighted at the 2012 International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology earlier this month, underscores the need for further research on nanoscale products, says Science in Public, a Melbourne-based communications group that is advocating for clearer definitions for existing nanomaterials.

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Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, reports the Cancer Council of Australia. More than 440,000 people receive medical treatment for various types of skin cancer each year, 1,700 of whom eventually die from the disease.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with more than 1,700 deaths from the disease each year.

The decision to go commando on your skin shouldn’t be entered lightly, but concerns about nanoparticles in sunscreens aren’t unwarranted, either, according to researchers who presented at ICONN. A study by Australia’s National Measurement Institute, for instance, found the presence of nanostructured materials in sunscreens that claimed to be “nano-free.”

Scientists from RMIT and Nanosafe Australia say that zinc-oxide and titanium-oxide particles used in sunscreens are as well-tolerated by human cells as zinc ions and conventional chemical sunscreen, yet a joint Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Macquarie University study concluded that a very small amount of zinc from the zinc-oxide particles can enter through the skin.

But although the safety of nanotechnology remains inconclusive, the dangers of skin cancer are not. Do your epidermis a solid and stay out of the afternoon sun, and visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website for a list of safe alternatives to nanoscale sunscreens.

[Via PhysOrg]