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Breast Cancer - The Estrogen Connection
Cosmetics and More

Ingredients in a wide variety of cosmetics and personal care products can mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen. Scientists are concerned that even at low levels, these environmental estrogens may work together with the body’s own estrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Watch the video, see What you can do, and Learn More About Cosmetics.


"New! Cosmetics and More Handout

 

 

Cosmetics Breast Cancer - The Estrogen Connection: Cosmetics and More
Learn about ingredients in cosmetics that are estrogen mimics.
Duration: 03:11
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Stainless bottles Breast Cancer - The Estrogen Connection: Plastics
Learn about estrogenic chemicals that can leach from plastics.
Duration: 03:08

 

down the drain Breast Cancer - The Estrogen Connection: In the Dump and Down the Drain
Learn about preventing estrogenic chemicals from getting into the environment.
Duration: 04:06

What you can do:

Read labels
Ingredients are listed in decreasing order by weight on all personal care products.

Learn the names of environmental estrogens

Make Choices
Choose products that do not have environmental estrogens.

Use the Cosmetic Safety Database
To find ingredients in products you use
To find products which do not have environmental estrogens


Learn More about Cosmetics
By Suzanne M. Snedeker, PhD

Ingredients in a wide variety of cosmetics and personal care products can mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen. Scientists are concerned that even at low levels, these environmental estrogens may work together with the body’s own estrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer. Learn more about the environmental estrogens used in cosmetics and personal care products, including their uses, exposure, evidence of estrogenicity, and the names of these estrogenic chemicals

Parabens

Placental extracts Benzophenones and other UV Screens

Parabens

Uses: Parabens are used at very low levels as preservatives (typically 0.01-0.3%) in a wide variety of personal care products, including hair care, skin care, and shaving products. Frequently, more than one paraben may be used in a single product. Currently, they are NOT used in major brands of deodorants or antiperspirants (FDA, Office of Cosmetics and Colors, March 20, 2006).

Exposure: There is little information on levels of parabens in people; more information is needed. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did find methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben in human urine samples, indicating exposure despite the very low levels in products (Ye et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(2):1843-1846, 2006; Ye et al., J. Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 17(6):567-572, 2007). In whole body application studies in people, Danish researchers have found that butylparaben can be absorbed through the skin (Janjua et al., Environmental Science and Technology, 41(15):5564-5570).

Estrogenicity: The parabens listed below are weak environmental estrogens. They also can support the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells grown in tissue culture (Byford et al., J. Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 80(1):49-60, 2002; Gomez et al., J. of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 68:239-251, 2005).

Names to look for:

Placental Extracts

Uses and Estrogenicity: Placental extracts may be contaminated with estrogens called estradiol or estrone. Placental extracts are used in relatively few personal care products, including hair conditioners, facial moisturizers and astringents.

Names to look for:

Benzophenones and other UV Screens

Uses: Benzophenones are photoprotectors that can filter out ultraviolet-A radiation (UV-A) from the sun. Photoprotectors are commonly called “UV filters” or “UV screens.” When applied to the skin, they can filter out UV-A or UV-B radiation. Sunscreen products are used in conjunction with wearing protective clothing and avoiding sun exposure to reduce exposure to UV radiation (*see note on photoprotection at the end of the article). UV screens also are found in a wide variety of other types of cosmetics and personal care products, including shampoos and conditioners, body lotions, lipstick, eye makeup, and hand sanitizers (to name a few). Hence, there is concern about possible exposures to these environmental estrogens.

Exposure: Benzophenone-3 has been detected in the urine of Americans adults and young girls in studies conducted by the CDC (Ye et al., Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 383(4):638-644, 2005; Wolff et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, 115(1):116-121, 2007; Calafat et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, doi:10.1289/ehp.11269 [In press, online 21 March 2008 at www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/11269/abstract.html). Hence, there is evidence of exposure in the U.S. population. Many commonly used UV-screens can be absorbed through the skin and get into the blood (see table below).

Estrogencity:

Photoprotection Chemicals (UV-Screens), UV- Filter Type & Evidence of Estrogencity
Chemical NameFilterOther Common NamesEstrogenicity
Benzophenone-1UV-Asame+ weak
Benzophenone-2UV-Asame+ weak
Benzophenone-3UV-AOxybenzone, Escalol 567, Euroslex 4360+- very weak **
Benzophenone-4UV-ASulisobenzone, Escalol 577+ weak
HomosalateUV-BHomomethyl salicylate, HMS+ weak
Octyl methoxycinnamateUV-BEMC, OMC, Escalol 557, Euroslex 2292+ weak**
4-Methylbenzylidene camphorUV-B4-MBC, Eusolex 6300+ weak**

**After full-body application to the skin, these UV screens were absorbed and appeared in the blood in 1-2 hours later in test subjects (Janjua et al., J. European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 22:456-261, 2008).

Additional Notes:

*NOTE on Photoprotection: Research shows and the FDA has stated that protection from skin cancer cannot be achieved solely with the use of sunscreens. Skin cancer prevention strategies include wearing a hat and protective clothing, avoiding being in the sun, especially during peak hours, and the correct application of sunscreens. Sunscreens should never be used to prolong the time spent in the sun. The FDA states: “FDA doesn’t have any data directly linking the use of sunscreens to a reduction in the risk of developing skin cancer. Research has shown that UV exposure increases skin cancer, premature skin aging (e.g., wrinkles), and other skin damage (e.g., sunburn). Although studies have shown that limiting time in the sun, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreens decrease UV exposure, studies have not specifically linked the use of sunscreen by itself to reduced risk of skin cancer or skin aging. To the contrary, studies have shown that some consumers increase time in the sun when wearing sunscreens, thereby increasing UV exposure.” (Source: http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/sunscreen/qa.htm, cited 4/28/08)

More information is available on breast cancer and the estrogen connection.

Acknowledgements: Dr. Suzanne Snedeker would like to acknowledge her student research assistants, Kasia Fertala and Laschelle Dana-Marie Stewart, who helped retrieve and organize the references used to write this article, and Carmi Orenstein for her helpful comments on drafts of this article.