Can parabens in your makeup, lotion or underarm deodorant cause breast cancer?
Parabens are used as preservatives in many personal care products (lotion, make-up and sunscreen.) Studies have shown that parabens can be absorbed through the skin. Studies have also shown that parabens have weak estrogen like properties. As you know, estrogen is a female hormone known to cause breast cells (normal and cancerous) to grow and divide. Conditions that increase the body’s exposure to estrogen (late menopause, obesity, not having children) have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Studies done in 2004 demonstrated that parabens can be found intact in the human breast which raised concerns about parabens and breast cancer. So, can parabens from makeup, lotion, hand sanitizers and underarm deodorants, accumulate in the body from long-term use?
Here is what we know, and don’t know about parabens and breast cancer:
- Studies published in 2004 looked only for the presence of parabens in breast cancer samples. The study did not show that parabens caused or contributed to breast cancer development in these cases it only showed that they were there. What this means is not yet clear.
- Although parabens have weak estrogen-like properties, the estrogens that are made in the body are hundreds to many thousands of times stronger. So, natural estrogens are much more likely to play a role in breast cancer development.
- Other studies have found some form of parabens in the urine of about 99% of U.S. adults. This would suggest that people are getting parabens from more than one source. But so far, studies have not shown any direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer.
Fortunately, these compounds are relatively easy to avoid and such steps can result in dramatic reductions of urinary levels of these compounds. It does seem prudent to avoid unnecessary exposure to possibly harmful substances so waterless hand cleaner formulations, sunscreen, make-up, underarm deodorant and lotions can now be found that are paraben free.
On a final note, women who want to reduce their risk of developing or dying from breast cancer should avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy, get to and stay at a healthy weight, exercise regularly, limit the amount of alcohol you drink, get regular mammograms and breast exams.
- Dr O.