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Curly Nikki

Parabens and Breast Cancer…Fact or Fiction?

By January 27th, 202117 Comments
AuNaturale, a gorgeous CurlyNikki reader, graciously shared this pertinent information with me, and now I’m passing it on to you! I honestly believe that we’re all becoming scientists in our own right- in the end, we’re going to know the good, the bad and the ugly about every single chemical compound found on the back of our fav products! Seriously. Education leads to the best decisions. Check it out:
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Hi Nikki,

I’ve read your recent posts on your success with Lustrasilk’s Shea & Mango Cholesterol and the debate regarding concerns of the parabens included in the product’s ingredients. I, as I’m sure most other people who read your blog, have read about the concerns regarding parabens in cosmetics products on other blogs and internet articles. These sources usually reference the infamous study indicating that parabens were found in breast cancer tissues. While I have read that some in the scientific community criticize this study, I really paid the criticism no mind, thinking that it more than likely came from scientists who work for the cosmetics companies. Breast cancer runs in my family, so, for me, just hearing about the results of this study was enough for me to get rid of all hair and skin care products, and deodorants, I owned that contained parabens. Personally, I just don’t want to take the risk. However, I must admit that while I had read many articles that merely referenced the study on parabens, I had never read, or bothered to look for, the study itself. After reading JC’s comments on parabens in one your previous posts, I decided to do more research on the subject so that I could make a more informed decision. I wanted to find the actual study. I searched for quite some time, but I could not find find it. However, I did find a very informative article (http://www.health-report.co.uk/parabens.htm) that provided the name of the doctor who conducted the study and various quotes from her regarding her results. The study was conducted in 2004 by Dr. Philippa Darbre, who is a senior lecturer in Oncology at the University of Reading in the UK. The findings of her study suggested that the traces of paraben chemicals she found in 20 breast cancer tumors seeped into the human tissue after being applied directly to the skin. In my opinion, such a finding definitely implicates skin care products and deodorants. But my efforts didn’t stop there. I emailed Dr. Darbre directly and asked her opinion on the use of parabens in hair products. I specifically referenced the Lustrasilk Shea & Mango Cholesterol since it contains methylparaben and propylparaben. I asked her if she thought that the continued use of hair products containing parabens could also lead to the development of cancer cells. Lastly, since quite some time has passed since her initial study, I asked her if other studies have been conducted since then. Much to my surprise, Dr. Darbre responded. Unfortunately, she couldn’t really answer the question on the use of parabens in hair products, but her response was quite detailed as to her area of study with respect to the use of parabens in cosmetics products, and the current state of the research in this area. Lastly, Dr. Darbre was kind enough to attach 17 peer-reviewed articles detailing the research and studies conducted on parabens in cosmetics products so that I could make the decision for myself. Here is Dr. Darbre’s response below and I will attach the articles to this email:

Thank you for your e-mail. I appreciate that research is very slow and your questions are almost impossible to answer at the current time. Most of my thoughts are focused around chemical components of cosmetic products which are applied and left on the skin in the area of the human breast in the context of a rising incidence of breast cancer and with an incidence of breast cancer disproportionately located in the upper outer quadrant of the breast (the region closest to the underarm – we have 53% of breast cancers starting there in the UK now). At a much more general level, whether it is even possible to consider the effect of a single chemical in a rinse-off hairproduct, I really do not know. My overall thoughts are that it is likely to be much more mutlifactorial than that – and I am sorry that I cannot answer you in any way other than to say I do not know and the true scientific position is that we do not know one way or the other.

I think that the best response I can give is to send you peer-reviewed publications and reviews that you can read for yourself and so that you can draw your own conclusions from what has been done so far. It is true that the research so far is very small, that our 2004 study was small and pioneering. However, without any real possibility of research funding, there will continue only to be small studies done by those, like myself, who try to find a few answers without much resource. I appreciate that the 2004 paper has been heavily criticised – it was never fit for such international scrutiny. It was published as a small, pioneering study to make a point (that parabens can be detected in human tissues – up to that point I was told by all that parabens would never be detected in human tissues). Without resource, there comes a time for any scientist where either one simply forgets the data or one decides to submit the data for peer-review in the hope that if it is accepted by peers as publishable that other scientists would read it and take the work on. As you can see from our 2008 review, there are others who have taken our 2004 work on and have found in the USA parabens in human urine (again vindicating that parabens can enter the human body) and in Denmark that parabens applied in topical cream to the dorsal skin of 26 young healthy men can be detected within hours in blood and then urine (again vindicating that parabens can enter the human body from topical application in a cream cosmetic). Whether there is any harm in our bodies having parabens in the tissues remains unknown at the current time – if, or course parabens could not be found in human tissues then there would be no question. But because they have been found there there remains a question which needs research effort putting into it, and, from my own perspective, I think needs research into not just the effects of a single type of chemical but the many chemicals which are applied in the many cosmetic products used in the modern world. One fear I have is that if we go hounding one chemical alone, that the bigger picture will be lost in the process.

I hope that this is helpful and that you are not overwhelmed by the detail. I do try to respond to everyone who writes to me.

All good wishes,
Philippa Darbre

I haven’t gone through all of these articles as of yet, but I certainly will. I definitely won’t be using any deodorants or lotions containing parabens, but after I read the articles, I will revisit my decision on whether I will use hair products containing parabens. I sincerely hope this information will be useful to others who visit your site!
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For those interested in reading the full articles, shoot me an email at nikki@curlynikki.com, and I’ll forward them to you.

To see my previous post on Parabens (among other chemicals), click here.
Later Gators,
Nik

17 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm an active 62 year old woman, who about 3 years ago suffered from a itchy rash all over my body. That lasted one year. I itched so bad I was going to bed with a back scratcher, not of the human kind either. I went to doctors who gave me cortisone shots, creams, prenisone to try to get rid of this. Nothing helped, then was sent to an allergy doctor who did a skin allergy test on me. This took a little time, but the only thing I was allergic to was —you got it -parabens. All of them. He told me it is an acquired allergy, probably from using paraben products for many years. I kept a magnifying glass in my purse and started looking at all the labels, and threw away every paraben product I had. From hair shampoo, conditioners, body lotions (which were my favorite)deoderant and makeup. Everything now is paraben free and I am itch free. Maybe there would be less breast cancer if all products were paraben free. If other companies can make products without parabens, why can't all companies. I am glad to see there are others out there that have the same concern as I do.
    HarleyRose
    I didn't know anything about parabens

  • Anonymous says:

    It is true that finding parabens in cancerous tissues in the body does not mean that parabens cased the cancer. However, many research has been done that conclude that parabens mimic estrogen in the body. Estrogen is a naturally produce hormone in the body and its abnormal increase in the body has been proven to cause cancer and other imbalances and illnesses in women and men. Because the studies have found that parabens weakly mimic estrogen one might think that the estrogen increase in the body might be very small. That might be true. However, giving that a very great deal of products that we use parabens (cosmetics, cleaning, house products, etc), then it is very easy to argue that continue use of all this products will abnormally increase the estrogen in the body. I posted couple links that further explain what I have said and they have references to the studies that have been made. To me it is obvious that the human society suffers from more diseases and more often than previous societies. The only different I can see is the introduction of artifitial chemicals in out lives and stress. For those of you who want to live a life worry and illness free you might be interested in visiting this website: http://drmanthenasnaturallifestyle.com/index.cfm

    Website about parabens:
    http://www.naturalskincaresecrets.com/parabens-and-cancer.html
    http://www.meldpuntgezondheidenmilieu.nl/documenten/mcs/borstk-parfum.html

  • Makeup Theory says:

    I am a stanch believer in natural products. I just don’t believe you can place all sorts of chemicals on and in your body DAILY and they not have an adverse effect. I read online that cancer cases has risen some ridiculous amount like 300% since the 50s. Wish I remembered where I read that, sorry. But my point is, why take the chance? To have an easy road to pretty hair? No thank you. In all of my workshops, I only showcase natural/organic makeup and skincare. My LIFE is too big a price to pay for beauty.

  • Original Elements says:

    Peace, I recommend reading African Holistic Health by Llaila O. Afrika. He covers ingredients in foods, and products.

  • Danni82 says:

    Excellent post. Conversations like these are great ones to be had! And though I’m still a scientist in training, I can tell you as a grad student that most informed researchers would advise you to not be too terrified by this report. JC made an excellent point, at no time did the author of the article present any findings that the presence of the parabens had anything to do with promoting tumor growth. In addition, the number of people with parabens in their tumors compared to the number of people I’m sure were studied was SO small. According to that data, you’ve got a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of getting cancer from the use of parabens. That doesn’t mean the journal article’s author is wrong, but it’s certainly not the strongest reason to stop applying a product to your hair.

  • Naturally Sophia says:

    www.cosmeticdatabase.com will review a majority of products with info about carcinogens as well as individual ingredients

  • chatamoment02 says:

    this was a good article but i still use products with parabens, i use to stray from them and then i really thought about it and i’ve never heard of any studies saying that parabens CAUSE cancer or make your risks go up higher just that parabens were found in tumors. I read a lot of blogs and forums where people are so worried about parabens and in their products or deoderant and most of the time you ask them if they eat organically they say no, do they maybe carpool to work to decrease the carcinogenic emissions in the air and again no, so a tiny bit of parabens that’s the last thing on the list in a jar isn’t gonna bother me.

  • CURLYNIKKI says:

    You guys are awesome! Thanks for the comments. I’m on the fence…I worry about all of these chemicals, but I don’t ‘stress’ over them, if you know what I mean. DevaOne and Lustrasilk give me amazing hair, and I don’t plan to stop using them just because they contain some iffy ingredients. I’m not saying that I put beauty before health, but yeah, we eat, drink, and breathe in so many unknown toxins that eliminating hair products would only be the tip of the iceberg!

    Thanks again chicas!!!

  • Leila Daily says:

    lol… when i read this, i knew it was only a matter of time before Jc said something. i just got schooled on my blog for freaking out over parabens, lol! i do think, though, that the beauty of natural products is that you don’t have to worry about stuff like that…

  • Anonymous says:

    JC, thanks for spitting it like that. One less thing to worry about.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent post. Thank you for providing information so that I can make up my own mind.

  • Anonymous says:

    I would like to quote from Darbre’s own reply to criticism from other scientific colleagues

    ‘Nowhere in the manuscript (her published paper on parabens and cancerous tissue) was any claim made that the presence of parabens had caused the breast cancer, indeed the measurement of a compound in a tissue cannot provide evidence of causality.’

    (This is quoted in a letter authored by Darbre – Reply to Robert Golden and Jay Gandy – Journal of Applied Toxicology, 2004 )

    I am in full support of women making an EDUCATED choice. I do not work for a cosmetic company or have an affiliation to any cosmetic company (Infact any company at all, I am based in University). My point of view comes from a scientist in a medical field who wants to ensure that scientific work is properly interpreted.

    To present some balance, I would like to say that one of the critics of Darbre’s paper did rightly point out that the contraceptive pill carries significantly more estrogen than you could ever get by daily ‘normal’ use of parabens. Additionally this estrogen is 10,000 to 100000 times likely to bind than parabens. The contraceptive pill carries a small risk of developing cancer but equally protects from other cancers. So how likely is a paraben to cause cancer compared to the contraceptive pill given that it is taken up in significantly lower dosages AND is less likely to bind.

    Why are we so critical about Darbre’s work. One reason – there were NO controls. She studied only cancerous tissue, she did not present any data to show if parabens were also present in normal tissue (Therefore suppose both normal and cancerous tissue had parabens, would you still attribute the cancer to parabens?). By not constructing a proper study, her paper was unintentionally was used by others to say that parabens = cancer which is untrue. Darbre did not present this standpoint, her research was miscontrued to say this.

  • Anonymous says:

    in this study they only tested women with cancerous tissue, they did not test women with non cancerous tissue. so how in fact can they say that parabens cause cancer?!? there is alot of hype around these issues in general i think we should not put to much stock in “scientific” evidence. today i read they are testing the theory that people with a apple based diet will be less likely to get cancer, how are they testing this??? on rats…..in this day and age it is not hard to live a completely organic and natural lifestyle, but i think some people are jumping on the band wagon and buying into media hype.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this information with us. I think we should remember that the causes of many cancers including breast cancer are “multifactorial” as she mentioned and detecting paraben in breast cancer tissue does no way indictate it’s a causative agent. What other chemicals were found? What were other preexisting conditions in these patients? What were their genetic predisposition? I haven’t read any of the studies regarding parabens in breast tissue but those are questions I would keep in mind. I recently started a vegan diet rich in soy and I have read that soy also raises the risk of breast cancer but I believe a diet rich in soy is healthier for me than one with animal products so I will continue to use soy until more compelling evidence of it’s risk arises. Just the same for parabens. What I know for sure is that it’s extremely difficult to keep up with the scientific community on what is and isn’t healthy.

  • Anonymous says:

    goshhhh, its like you have to take a list with you whenever you but commerical products,online products, I see on some labels where its say natural or the precentage of natural and towards the end you see parabens,TEA,DMDM,colors,etc, it really makes things hard when your trying to use the best for your Hair,skin,body and so many bad stuff to beware of, I need to go pray this is so overwhelming,

  • Milan says:

    Thank you for sharing this. This is the exact reason why I have chosen to eliminate using hair care and skin care products with parabens and other questionable ingredients (propolyn glycol, paraffin, mineral oil, all those disodium TEA, ETA etc..) in them. I just would rather not take the risk. I’m slowly working on my cosmetic collection next but I will be honest, that is going to take a while. But I’ve already aquired a paraben free foundation so little by little, I will get there.

  • NowIamNappy says:

    It really makes me think so much about using all natural products. After I had heard the study about deodorants and breast cancer a while back I started using all natural ones. but I do use hair products with parabens, this world can be a scary place. I wonder if that’s why cancer is so high as opposed to previous years. Its really something to think about.

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