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Parabens (it rears its ugly head again)

First of all, I would like to say that I have lost three people to cancer in the last month – my uncle, my friend and my stepfather’s sister. All of them far too young to be leaving their spouses and children behind. With every death, I became more frustrated with the fact that they died and no one knows why. How do we not have any definitive answers to the cause of cancer? We know carcinogens exist but there seems to be such a political battle over what to be concerned about – especially in the cosmetic and skin care industry.

Case in point, parabens, the cosmetic preservative that is used rampantly by many of the large cosmetic companies. On January 12 of this year, a report was published by the Journal of Applied Toxicology that measured the amount of parabens in different sections of the breast by testing tissue samples from the mastectomies of 40 different patients. Of the 160 tissue samples tested, 158 had parabens in them. That’s 99%. Also, the levels of parabens were found to be significantly higher in the region closest to the armpit which contributes to the suspicion that they are originating from antiperspirants (although 7 of the 40 patients had never used underarm products). This propelled a slew of media about the subject including an article by The Sun in the UK. In response to this article, three breast cancer charities have published a letter* rebutting this article and the study behind it. As they put it, “This research has serious flaws and provides no proof to suggest that women should be concerned about parabens”

I was puzzled by this letter. Why would the people that are paid to find the causes of breast cancer make statements of this nature … who are they protecting? I really got suspicious when I read this line, “Despite the fact that Professor Sharpe comments, ‘The study does not address whether parabens contribute to risk of breast cancer’, we feel by the nature of the rest of the article the damage to concerned women will already have been done.” What damage? The only damage I can think of would be to the companies that still formulate with parabens. This got me digging and lo and behold I found what I suspected – a corporate sponsorship* by Avon, the maker of cosmetics with parabens galore. See what I mean by politics?

I know that I’ve said this before, but until we get some answers about what is causing people to develop this life-threatening disease, everything is suspect – especially a chemical that is found in the breast tissue of mastectomy patients! These are people’s lives we are talking about and they are a lot more important than the profits of companies that don’t have the ethics to formulate responsibly.

If you are concerned about this chemical, look for the following on your cosmetic and skin care labels – butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben; methylparaben and propylparaben.

*Update: Unfortunately these links are no longer available. 

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