Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives. They are becoming increasingly controversial, however, because they have been found in breast cancer tumors (an average of 20 nanograms/g of tissue). Parabens have also displayed the ability to slightly mimic oestrogen and play a role in the development of breast cancer. Another concern is that the oestrogen-mimic aspect of parabens may be a factor in the increasing prevalence of early puberty in girls. See also Naturopathic Causes and Treatment of Cancer
Parabens and allergic reactions
Parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis and rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies, a small percentage of the general population.
Parabens and Breast Cancer
Average levels of 20 nanograms/gram of parabens have been detected in a small sample of 20 breast tumours. These findings, along with the demonstrated ability of some parabens to partially mimic cancer promoting oestrogen, have led some scientists to conclude that the presence of parabens may be associated with the occurrence of breast cancer. The lead researcher of the UK study, molecular biologist Philippa Darbre, reported that the ester-bearing form of the parabens found in the tumours indicate that they came from something applied to the skin, such as an underarm deodorant, cream or body spray, and stated that the results helped to explain why up to 60% of all breast tumours are found in just one-fifth of the breast - the upper-outer quadrant, nearest the underarm.
"From this research it is not possible to say whether parabens actually caused these tumours, but they may certainly be associated with the overall rise in breast cancer cases. Given that breast cancer is a large killer of women and a very high percentage of young women use underarm deodorants, I think we should be carrying out properly funded, further investigations into parabens and where they are found in the body," says Philip Harvey, an editor of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, which published the research.
A 2004 study at Northwestern University found that an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving.
"I personally feel there is a very strong correlation between the underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer," said immunologist Dr. Kris McGrath, the author of the study.
Parabens act as an oestrogen mimicker
Animal experiments have shown that parabens have weak oestrogenic activity, acting as xenoestrogens.
Some oestrogens are known to drive the growth of tumours. Studies have elicited concern about the use of butylparaben, and to a lesser extent other parabens as well, in cosmetics and antiperspirants. A 2005 safety assessment of parabens concluded that cosmetics containing parabens do not, on the basis of currently available evidence, pose a health risk; because of the low doses involved and the low probability that parabens will penetrate into the tissue, remain intact, and accumulate there. Bets advice is to avoid altogether. Insist on buying widely available “paraben free” products.
Parabens increase cancer risk from sun exposure
Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage and increasing the potential for skin cancer.
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