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expert reaction to study of paraben concentrations in breast tissue, published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology

Researchers measured the concentrations of parabens, which have been indirectly linked with breast cancer, in breast tissue.


Professor Alan Boobis, Department of Medicine, Imperial College, said:

“This study extends our knowledge of the levels of paraben esters in human breast tissue. However, the relationship that the presence of these compounds in breast tissue has to breast cancer, if any, cannot be determined from the study. Whilst some of the associations did not disprove certain hypotheses they did not strengthen them either. The paper acknowledges this in several places. There were few consistent trends in the data that might provide hypotheses for further studies. This paper in itself does not raise additional concerns regarding exposure to parabens.”


Professor Richard Sharpe, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, said:

“Parabens are a group of antimicrobial compounds used as preservatives in a variety of personal care products, including underarm deodorants. They are also weakly oestrogenic (one of the so-called ‘environmental oestrogens’). Lifetime exposure to oestrogens is an important risk factor for breast cancer, so one concern raised in the past has been whether local delivery of parabens to breast tissue from the use of underarm deodorants might contribute causally to risk of breast cancer; this concern was fuelled by the demonstration that parabens are readily absorbed via the skin and was detectable in breast cancer tissue.

“This new study has measured parabens in breast tissue from a larger number of women undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer, and found parabens in 99% of samples. However, the breast tissue level of parabens was similar in women who had never used underarm deodorants to those who regularly used them. Therefore, the parabens detected in breast tissue do not derive specifically from underarm deodorant use, and are presumed to derive from other exposures, for example from foods and cosmetics. This study does not address whether parabens could contribute to risk of breast cancer, but because parabens are very weak in comparison to the oestrogen produced naturally within the body by women of reproductive age, any contribution is likely to be minor in comparison. The study further suggests, but does not prove, that underarm deodorant usage is not an important risk factor for breast cancer.”

‘Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum’ by L. Barr et al., published in Journal of Applied Toxicology on Thursday 12th January 2012.

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