Parabens are commonly found in a wide array of personal care products, from shampoos to body lotions. A new study suggests that parabens may up the risk of breast cancer, by mimicking estrogen release.
The study, featuring in the latest issue of the Environmental Health Perspectives raises a number of questions over the implications of using parabens linked to human health. Moreover, the findings suggest that currently used safety tests and their methodology might not reveal the real impact that parabens have on health.
Part of the ingredient lists present on sunscreens, cosmetics, body lotions and other personal care products, parabens are mainly used as preservatives. However, they are chemical compounds that mimic estrogen. They have been found to activate the estrogen receptor in the body in the same manner as estradiol, a naturally produced hormone.
Previous studies have linked estradiol and other estrogens to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
And while parabens have passed safety tests, these target parabens in isolation. In relation to other molecules, parabens use may result in a potentiator of breast cancer or reproductive issues.
Toxicologist Ruthann Rudel with the Silent Spring Institute and one author on the study declared that:
“Scientists and regulators are using potency estimates from these kind of tests and are assuming they are relevant to what goes on in real life. But if you don’t design the right test, you can be off by a lot”.
To subject parabens to a different kind of test, the research team looked specifically at breast cancer cells. Two receptors were of particular interest. The human epidermal growth factor receptor two or HER 2 and estrogen receptors. Typically, 25 percent of breast cancer cells are found to produce HER 2 in large quantities. Positive tumors that are found to contain HER 2 have been found to spread and grow more rapidly than any other type.
Within a selected culture of breast cancer cells, the researchers activated HER 2 receptors. They used heregulin, a growth factor produced in the cells of the breast naturally. At the same time, the cells were exposed to parabens.
The effect of the parabens of the cells was significant. They activated the estrogen receptors as well as stimulated the growth of the HER 2 breast cancer cells at significant rates.
While the findings suggest that parabens may up the risk of breast cancer, the research team draws attention that other estrogen mimics may have the same effect.
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