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News and Comment

There is no evidence that parabens increase the risk of breast cancer

19 January 2012

Recent media stories have linked parabens found in cosmetics, food and deodorant to an increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer charities say there is no evidence for this.

We were disappointed to see another story linking parabens to breast cancer in The Sun today. Experts responded last week to stories on a study which found that tissue samples taken from breast cancer tumours contained parabens and suggested exposure to “a cocktail of parabens from different sources” increases the risk of breast cancer.

Dr Caitlin Palframan, Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer: This study does not show any connection between breast cancer and parabens. We already knew that parabens may be found in the breast but there’s nothing to suggest women should worry about this. Whether the parabens come from one or many sources, there is no evidence of increased breast cancer risk.” 

Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Campaign wrote to the editor of The Sun objecting to the story on the 12th January, saying “Despite what your article and headline suggest, there is currently no convincing scientific evidence that parabens affect breast cancer risk. This research has serious flaws and provides no proof to suggest that women should be concerned about parabens.” Read the letter from the three main breast cancer charities in the UK here.

The presence of parabens, preservatives found in many food and beauty products, in breast cancer tissue does not mean they caused the breast cancer. Our bodies contain traces of many substances that we are in contact with, natural and synthetic, some beneficial and some harmful at certain levels. To understand whether the presence of a chemical is a problem, we need to know how much of it is present and to look at what kind of effect, if any, it is having. Read more in Making Sense of Chemical Stories.

There is more on the status of evidence for links between cosmetics and deodorants and cancer at Cancer Research UK, in Breakthrough Breast Cancer's leaflet “The Facts: Deodorants and Antiperspirants”(PDF) and NHS Behind the Headlines also looked into the recent story linking parabens to breast cancer.

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