Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as antimicrobial preservatives in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics products, including underarm deodorants. Measurable concentrations of six different parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.[i] Here’s what’s not certain: the level of chemical exposure that might pose a risk to human health.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Fund, lists many chemicals of concern: 1,4-dioxane, benzophenone, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Carbon black, coal tar, known carcinogens, Diethanolamine (DEA), Cancer-causing formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, hydroquinone, Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury, nitrosamines, octinoxate, polyacrylamide, PTFE (Teflon), p-phenylenediamine, Parabens, phthalates, Resorcinol, Retinol, Synthetic musks, titanium dioxide, toluene, triclosan. Many of these ingredients are banned in other countries like the European Union, for example.
Breast cancer is not necessarily tied to a genetic roadmap and more and more studies are finding that the current risk assessment tools are not comprehensive. If I complete the Risk Assessment Tool online, I am found to have a 2.1% chance of getting breast cancer within the next five years. This prediction is based on having one close relative diagnosed, age of menstruation, race, and age of first live birth. How is it then that lab reports stated a 'High probability of breast cancer' for my left breast in 2005? Clearly, there are risk factors yet to be determined.
If not already, women can become more cognizant of the products they are using, what they contain, how they are made, and how they affect the body. There are Smartphone apps for downloading like 'Skin Deep,' for example. This app will help you mitigate the cosmetic world and make good choices by listing harmful ingredients and rating the product on a scale of 1-10. We must make it clear to cosmetic manufacturers that toxic chemicals and endocrine disruptors will not be tolerated. And the best way to do that may be to simply stop buying products containing unhealthy ingredients.
[i] Darbre, P., Aljarrah, A., & Miller, W. (2004). Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. J Appl Toxicol, 24, 5–13.