The Internet is like freakin' Kryptonite for hypochondriacs, right? It seems like very time you hit that Google Search button or refresh your email, you're just asking to stumble upon an ad, news story, or website that plays on your deepest fears about your health. And as someone who is definitely something of a hypochondriac herself, I would never want to instill unnecessary fear in others, but I definitely believe there's some truth to one web "rumor": That chemicals in some cosmetics promote breast cancer.
There's a lot of confusion over what exactly in deodorant and other cosmetics might be linked to breast cancer, but one thing's for sure: Parabens (chemicals like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben) are hormone disruptors (they mimic estrogen in the body) used in lots of different kinds of makeup, moisturizers, and hair care and shaving products. They've also turned up in breast cancer tumors ... more than once!
The latest study to show this was recently published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology just found that in 40 women with breast cancer who chose to have a mastectomy, 99 percent of the tissue samples had evidence of at least one paraben, and 60 percent showed evidence of FIVE! Uh ... definitely raises the question as to whether or not these damn chemicals are related to cancer, right?
It also bears noting that a lot of coverage of the study has discussed how this may alleviate fears that antiperspirant specifically is causing breast cancer, because parabens showed up in women who didn't use it. But we don't know if they were using a slew of other products that do have parabens!
Either way, the researchers who worked on the study acknowledge that the relationship between parabens and breast cancer is complicated, but it does justify further investigation. As for what they recommend to women who are worried ...
Further studies need to be performed to determine if there is a relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but if one is concerned, there are natural products without parabens that could be used.
Although there's a dissenting opinion (I would guess funded by some of these companies that make the cosmetics that use parabens!) claiming that women shouldn't worry whatsoever about parabens and that the "research isn't there," I strongly feel that steering clear of parabens in personal care products is one huge, important precaution we can take.
Over the last few years, after looking into the research and considering my own health issues, I've switched over to all different natural personal care products, from Tom's toothpaste (to avoid fluoride) to paraben-free lotions, face creams, etc. Thankfully, it's not as hard as you might think to find more natural and equally effective substitutes! Yeah, my hair stylist probably doesn't love that I won't even look at the selection of salon products, because they all contain parabens, but oh well. I just know that for me, peace of mind is worth missing out on that fancy mousse or volumizing spray.
Do you try to avoid parabens and/or use natural personal care products?
Image via Shawn Campbell/Flickr
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