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Opening the Door on Parabens and Breast Cancer

©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

Have you ever read the ingredients on the back of your shampoo bottle, your jar of moisturizer or the hand lotion you use? Chances are most of those ingredients you can’t even pronounce. More importantly, most of them are chemicals you don’t want in your blood stream. Regardless of whether you’re male or female, or if you’ve had breast cancer, you might consider avoiding a class of chemical ingredients called parabens.

Methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparabens are commonly used as preservatives in most of our personal care products. Manufacturers use parabens because they allow everything from toothpaste, to makeup base, to stay on store shelves longer. As informed consumers, however, we should be aware that parabens are known to cause breast cancer cells to grow and proliferate in laboratory environments. Because parabens can mimic estrogen, a hormone known to play a key role in some breast cancers, women who’ve had estrogen positive breast cancer should avoid all forms of estrogen in an effort to lessen risk of recurrence. Many say that should include parabens.

Just as “we are what we eat,” we are also a receptacle for the chemicals we put on our body. According to Mercola.com, the body can absorb as much as five pounds of cosmetic chemicals every year. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and into our gastrointestinal tract and our blood stream. The January-February 2004 issue of the Journal of Applied Toxicology reported measurable amounts of six different parabens from biopsy samples of breast cancer tumors. Because of their estrogenic properties, parabens can also affect male reproductive glands. The January 2009 issue of Reproductive Toxicology reported a probable link between parabens and the possible decrease in sperm production in males.

Studies are beginning to show that a lifelong exposure to estrogen may increase our risk for breast cancer. Many scientists are wondering if the cumulative effects of estrogenic parabens in our personal care products may explain why more girls are reaching puberty younger and younger, some as early as eight, and why more girls are being diagnosed with breast cancer.

So now that you know about parabens, what do you do about them? For starters, read the labels on everything from deodorant to your favorite beauty products. If possible, only buy products that say “Paraben Free” on the label. Most paraben free products can be found in stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a store that carries paraben free products in your area, you can purchase many of them through the RETAIL THERAPY link on BreastCancerSisterhood.com.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite all natural, paraben free skin care lines, and believe me, I’ve tried them all. I love, love, love Ann Webb’s Skin Organics. Her Unscented Body Cream and Olive Eye Cream are amazing! I also like a skin care line called MyChelle Dermaceuticals, particularly their Unscented Honeydew Cleanser & Makeup Remover. Another great product line is Dermaé Natural Bodycare, particularly their Microdermabrasion Scrub, Hyaluronic Acid Day Crème and their Hyaluronic Acid Night Crème. If you’d like a good paraben free shampoo, try Hugo Naturals Red Tea & Ylang-Ylang. I have fine hair and Hugo’s shampoo doesn’t weigh it down.

Since I go out of my way to avoid parabens, I am dismayed to learn methylparabens are also found naturally in plant sources like blueberries. Because blueberries are one of the richest sources of anti-oxidants, I eat a half pint of blueberries on my cereal every day. Even though blueberries only contain minute amounts of parabens, I am a wee bit conflicted by this information.

If we care enough about the land to be vigilant about toxic spills, separate our trash—aluminum from plastic and paper—then doesn’t it make sense to honor ourselves even more by avoiding harmful chemicals we put on and into our bodies? While everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb, I’ve never been a moderate kind of girl, so this blueberry thing has me considering… Oh, my stars! I nearly said moderation!