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Make-up and skincare contain a cocktail of chemicals that could cause breast cancer 

Make-up and skincare products contain a cocktail of chemicals that could leave women infertile and even cause breast cancer.

These chemicals include parabens and BPA, which are considered ‘gender benders’ due to them encouraging male breast growth.

After analysing more than a 100 women, US scientists found those who have these chemicals in their urine produce abnormal amounts of the reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone. 

Excessive oestrogen has been linked to fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome, while too little prevents eggs maturing and being released from the ovary. Too much progesterone is associated with both breast cancer and unusual vaginal bleeding.

Previous research suggests parabens, which are used as preservatives in cosmetics and skincare, mimic oestrogen and may cause cancer, while Bisphenol A (BPA), which is added to perfumes to make scents last longer, has been linked to infertility.

Make-up and skincare products contain chemicals that could leave women infertile and even cause breast cancer. These chemicals include parabens and BPA, which are considered ‘gender benders’ due to them encouraging male breast growth (stock)

Researchers from George Mason University, Virginia, analysed the urine samples of 143 healthy women, all of which were pre-menopausal and not taking birth control.


What are parabens?

Parabens are hormone-disrupting chemicals, which are used as preservatives in skincare, cosmetics and hair products.

They mimic oestrogen and may cause cancer, weight gain and reduced muscle mass. 

What is BPA?

The so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is added to receipts to make their writing appear darker without using ink.

It reacts with oestrogen and thyroid-hormone receptors, and has been linked to infertility, autism, ADHD, obesity, type 2 diabetes, premature births and early onset of puberty.

Health fears prompted BPA to be replaced with its ‘healthier alternative’ Bisphenol S (BPS), however, evidence suggests BPS disrupts babies’ development in the womb.

Exposure to BPA, which is also found in the lining of canned foods, also causes the same inflammation and gut bacteria changes in mice that occur in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned BPA from baby bottles, while The European Commission prohibits the chemical from being added to receipts from 2020. 

What is triclosan?

Triclosan, a chemical added to personal-care products to prevent bacterial contamination, has been linked to reduced heart health and an underactive thyroid.

It is added to antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes and cosmetics, as well as some clothing, furniture and toys. 

Triclosan also stops infections responding to antibiotics, which may contribute towards the resistance crisis.

The chemical was banned in soaps in the US two years ago. No such ban exists in the UK.

The FDA declared antibacterial soaps containing triclosan are no more effective than hot water and regular cleansers at killing bugs. 

Lead author Dr Anna Pollack said: ‘This study is the first to examine mixtures of chemicals that are widely used in personal care products in relation to hormones in healthy, reproductive-age women, using multiple measures of exposure across the menstrual cycle, which improved upon research that relied on one or two measures of chemicals.’

Each woman provided between three and five urine samples over two menstrual cycles. These were assessed for the chemicals BPA, parabens, chlorophenols and  benzophenones.

Chlorophenols are used as preservatives in cosmetics and have been linked to acne, liver injury and cancer. 

Benzophenones are added to products like lip balm and nail varnish to protect them against UV light. They also prevent products like soap losing their colour and scent. Studies have linked benzophenones to cancer and infertility.

Blood samples were taken from all of the participants to determine their levels of the following hormones – oestrogen, progesterone, FSH and LH. 

FSH stimulates an egg to grow in the ovary, while LH causes the egg to be released. Oestrogen stop FSH production so only one egg matures per cycle and also stimulates LH’s production. Progesterone thickens the uterus wall to prepare for a fertilised egg.

Results, published in the journal Environment International, suggest exposure to all of the studied chemicals increases a woman’s progesterone levels.  

Those with higher levels of chlorophenols in their urine also produce more oestrogen and FSH, while parabens and BPA increase oestrogen.

Too much ostroegen is linked to the condition oestrogen dominance, which can lead to non-cancerous growths in the uterus and PCOS.

Chlorophenols are associated with reduced ostrogen, FSH and LH production. Low FSH levels suggests a woman is not producing eggs, while reduced LH can be a sign of PCOS.

Dr Pollack said: ‘What we should take away from this study is that we may need to be careful about the chemicals in the beauty and personal care products we use.

‘We have early indicators that chemicals such as parabens may increase oestrogen levels. If this finding is confirmed by additional research, it could have implications for oestrogen dependent diseases such as breast cancer.’ 


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