A study published this month has raised questions again about the potential correlation between the use of parabens in food and cosmetics, and the possibility of developing breast cancer.
Parabens (full name p-hydroxybenzoates) are chemical agents widely used as preservatives in food stuffs and in cosmetic products because they are low-cost and give products an almost indefinite shelf-life. They are found in a huge number of deodorant-antiperspirant products, body lotions, moisturisers, suncare products, shaving gels and various makeup products. They are absorbed through the skin and from the gastrointestinal tract and blood.
Back in 2004, Dr Phillipa Darbre of Reading University sent a shock wave through the cosmetics industry when her study, published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, suggested that parabens used in underarm deodorants could be a contributory factor in breast cancer cases. Parabens’ have been shown to mimic the female hormone oestrogen which is known to promote the growth of breast tumours.
Dr Darbre’s latest study builds on her 2004 research. Four samples were taken from 40 women who had undergone mastectomies between 2005 and 2008. It was found that 99% of all samples contained at least one paraben, while 60% contained five different parabens.
While underarm deodorants have long been claimed to be a contributing factor in the development of breast cancer, the study showed that parabens were present in the breast tissue of women who don’t even use underarm cosmetics - indicating that parabens must be entering the body in other ways.
“The intriguing discovery that parabens are present even in women who have never used underarm products raises the question: where have these chemicals come from?" asks Mr Lester Barr, Chairman of the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Appeal.
Leader of the study, Dr Darbre goes on to say that "the fact that parabens were detected in the majority of the breast tissue samples cannot be taken to imply that they actually cause breast cancer, however, the fact that parabens were present in so many of the breast tissue samples does justify further investigation."
We have written previously about the dangers of parabens in our online article ‘safe cosmetics, parabens and the precautionary principle’. We use the ‘precautionary principle’ to determine whether an ingredient is acceptable in our organic health and beauty products - if any research casts doubt over the ingredient’s safety to humans or the environment, we will not use it. And for that reason, Essential Care has never used parabens.