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What’s the link between beauty products and breast cancer?

By now consumers are well used to reading the labels of food products before deciding to purchase them. Ingredients such as trans fats and preservatives often act as red flags when deciding between one product and another at the grocery store.

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Masterfile

Most consumers are used to reading the labels of food products before deciding to purchase them. Ingredients such as trans fats and preservatives often act as red flags when deciding between one product and another at the grocery store. If you aren’t already, it’s wise to put deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, hair care products and moisturizers and cleansers to the same test, particularly given the results of a recent study (via WebMd) in the UK that suggests a possible link between breast cancer and parabens, a preservative used in many personal products.   

Researchers in Reading, England examined the breast tissue of more than 40 women with breast cancer (the tissue had been removed via mastectomy). Almost every one of the tissue samples—99 per cent—revealed the presence of at least one paraben, and 60 percent of the tissue samples showed evidence of at least five parabens. 

Parabens—look for any product that ends with the suffix paraben, e.g., ethylparaben, propylparaben— are chemicals that can mimic the hormone estrogen. Estrogen can encourage the growth of certain types of breast cancer. Parabens are present in a host of consumer products, including some food products. They are also a “secret” ingredient in many fragrances, however they’re not listed to preserve the manufacturer’s formulation from being copied by competitors. 

The study underlines previous findings that suggest a potential link between parabens and breast cancer, and while the findings don’t prove that environmental exposure to parabens causes breast cancer, they should offer consumers food for thought. 

Skin is the largest organ in the human body – it acts like a sponge, absorbing chemicals and ingredients it comes in contact with. While experts debate just what causes breast cancer, others advocate women take the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach when it comes to reducing environmental exposure to these chemicals and choose natural personal care products.

 “Avoid products that contain hormonally active ingredients, including parabens,” Marisa Weiss, MD, and the president and founder of Breastcancer.org, told WebMD.