Parabens, Phthalates, and Breast Cancer, Oh My!

breast-cancer-ribbonYes, the pink-washed month of breast cancer awareness is over, but that doesn’t mean breast cancer just goes away. Every day of every month there are new women diagnosed and beginning the fight against breast cancer. So why not start today, right now, learning about how you can increase your odds of avoiding that nasty enemy? One important step you can take is to do your best to steer clear of the synthetics and chemicals that emerging science has linked to breast cancer. We’ve got the details on two of the main guilty parties for you.

Why aren’t these ingredients banned?

In the United States, testing of cosmetics is voluntary—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers the cosmetics industry to be a self-regulating industry. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, 89% of ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. That means the burden is put on you as a consumer to take responsibility for protecting yourself—and often, that’s not an easy task.

Public Enemy No. 1: Phthalates. According to Breast Cancer Action, phthalates “have been known to cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive problems in laboratory animals exposed to these chemicals during pregnancy and after birth.” They’re used as solvents in many cosmetics, but you can also find them in food packaging, building materials, and children’s products, and in cosmetics items including deodorants, nail polish, and fragrances. This substance can mimic natural hormones, disrupting the normal hormone process—possibly even causing early puberty in girls. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on the Environment reported that phthalates are carcinogenic.

Public Enemy No. 2: Parabens. Breast Cancer Action characterizes parabens, like phthalates, as “chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function.” Exposure to external estrogens has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The Skin Deep database considers parabens a high hazard, rating it a 7 on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 corresponds to the highest concern. Traces of parabens have been discovered in breast cancer cells.

icon_pink_smallWe’ve discussed safety as a reason to incorporate organic products into your beauty routine before, and that logic still stands. After all, more than 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. If you have a family history of breast cancer, or feel that you’re especially sensitive to synthetic ingredients, swapping out some or all of your daily products for organic ones could give you peace of mind—and leave your skin just as lovely.

-Aleigh Acerni

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