Parabens ~ Are they worth the risk?
It appears that cancer is everywhere, there are few people on this planet today whose lives have not been affected by this horrible disease. However we also seem to be desensitized by the magnitude of cases, referring to survivors matter of factly without taking into account the realities of this disease.
About 8 years ago, one morning at about 5 a.m. (as I was getting ready to go to work doing makeup on a feature film) someone knocked on my loft door. I opened the door and there was my neighbour T, 42, gorgeous but with left arm up in the air, her right arm pointing to an area just below her armpit saying “JoAnn feel this” and I did – it was a hard lump about 10cm round and all I could say was “T, you have to get this checked today”.
Well a few days later the results were in – 4b breast and lymphatic cancer – 5 is death.
I watched T go through literal hell for the next three years, I saw her nails turn black and fall off as a result of the chemo, I saw her break into incredibly painful rashes on her hairless head and body. I saw her have anxiety that sent us calling for the paramedics. I saw her on her hands and knees throwing up. I saw her lose so much weight she became a skeleton. I saw the fear in her eyes the day before she was having both her breasts removed. I saw the financial devastation this disease caused. Truly it was horrible!
We cannot be complacent ~ major manufacturers would have us believe that if we hold out long enough they will find a cure ~ but what about prevention? Cancer is caused by something and yet just like the tobacco companies no one wants to admit it and certainly not where it might affect the bottom line. T fought the fight of her life and so far she is alive and cancer free. T only eats organic food now and only uses products that are free of synthetic chemicals.
Which brings me to the raging debate on parabens. Parabens are petrochemical derived compounds, discovered in 1917, and at first it was thought to be good for treating women in menopause since they have a slight estrogenic effect on the body. Instead however they ended up in all our personal care items as preservatives.
Our skin is our largest organ and between 40-60% of what we put on our bodies enters our blood stream. Over 20 different types of parabens have been found in the middle of breast tumors and in 2002, parabens, due to their estrogenic activity, were found to cause increased uterine growth in animals. The same study first linked parabens to proliferation of two estrogen-dependent human breast cancer cells (Darbre et al, 2002)
In 2004 blood tests found parabens in breast milk and breast cancer tumors. Further to this, researchers from Brunel University in the UK discovered butylparaben to be the most estrogenic and postulate that parabens that are absorbed through the skin of pregnant women may act like an alien female hormone, affecting the development of the fetuses’ future fertility. Professor John Sumpter, wrote an article for The Independent, where he expressed concerns that parabens may play a role in explaining why sperm counts have been falling in men and breast cancer in women is on the rise. He did however note that the clinical results were based on animal studies only and the human trials have not been done.
So yes there needs to be more research done, independent of funding by major companies that actually own many of the cosmetic companies using parabens. In North America, these major chemical companies fund much of the cancer research and one at least owns not only numerous cancer treatment centers but also owns tamoxifen the most widely prescribed breast cancer drug.
For myself and those I love, parabens are not worth the risk. In today’s world we have high performance makeup, hair and skin care available that do not contain parabens or many other chemicals known or strongly suspected of being carcinogens.