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BASF Assists in Developing Sunscreen for Tanzania's Albino Population

Contact Author Katie Anderson
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BASF has assisted the Tanzania's Regional Dermatology Training Centre (RDTC) in developing a sunscreen for people in the area with congenital pigmentation disorder, or albinism. In the East African country at the equator, one in every 2,500 inhabitants is a person with albinism, with life expectancies of only 30 years.These 20,000 people are more susceptible to sunburn, putting them at an increased risk for skin cancer.

The RDTC in Moshi has helped these people for more than 22 years by providing an extensive support program, which began including an SPF 30 sunscreen, Kilimanjaro Suncare, in 2012. This was distributed to 2,000 people in North Tanzania with albinism. “KiliSun” as it is called by Tanzanians, had one decisive disadvantage; it did not currently provide enough UVA protection.

BASF began providing ingredients to RDTC in 2013 to expand the production of the sunscreen. It then began researching with RDTC a better way to protect people with albinism. “Now we are working together on a suitable sunscreen that protects the skin of affected local people under extreme conditions even better from the rays of the sun,” added Uli Osterwalder of BASF. In addition to an SPF 50, the new sunscreen should have a high absorption of UVA rays and long lasting protection. 

“As opposed to UVB rays, UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply. They can alter cells in the long term and thereby promote the development of skin cancer,” said Mafalda Soto Valdés from the Spanish development aid organization AFRICA DIRECTO. As a trained pharmacist, she formulates the sunscreen locally and drives the project ahead.

In Tanzania, the intense UV rays combined with a lack of suitable clothing and sun protection leads to actinic keratosis –a precancerous stage of skin cancer–in people with albinism under 20. “RDTC wants to protect people with albinism from the extreme high sun radiation at the equator in the best possible way. We want to provide medical advice and support and supply them with the sunscreens necessary for survival. BASF is an important partner in this endeavor,” emphasized Valdés.

The issue encountered by the research team was that o/w emulsions, which make up for than 90% of all sunscreens available in Europe, cannot withstand the hot African sun. They, therefore, needed to develop a w/o emulsion. “It is not absorbed as quickly, but it offers long lasting protection,” said Osterwalder. In the long term, the new sun protection emulsion should replace the existing sunscreen. Until that time, KiliSun is enriched with the BASF UV filter Uvinul A Plus. It supplements the important UVA protection while further improving the skin feel of the sunscreen.

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