Chemicals in popular hair products ‘linked to breast cancer’ – and some women at ‘greater risk’ | The Sun

CHEMICALS in popular hair products have been linked to breast cancer in a new study.

Researchers specifically studied black women, who are more at risk of breast cancer under the age of 40 years old.

They tested the effects of parabens – found in various hair and personal care products – on breast cancer cells from black women.

The study found that when parabens were put on the black breast cancer cells in a dish, it increased their growth and spread.

This effect was not seen in the white breast cancer cell line at the doses tested, according to the scientists at the City of Hope National Medical Center, Los Angeles, California. 

The parabens also altered the expression of oestrogen – a hormone that drives breast cancers. 

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Parabens are known as “endocrine-disrupting chemicals” because they look like hormones, therefore may be able to mimic them in the body.

There are fears this could influence disease risk, for example because parabens look chemically similar to oestrogen.

Dr Lindsey Treviño, lead researcher, said: “One reason for the higher risk of breast cancer may be exposure to harmful chemicals called endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hair and personal care products. 

“These chemicals mimic the effects of hormones on the body."

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Dr Treviño claimed that, while the study focused on black women, the information found between chemicals and cancer risk “can be used to help all women at high risk of getting breast cancer”.

Maralyn Druce, Queen Mary University Professor of Endocrine Medicine – who was not involved in the study – had some words of caution on the findings.

She told The Sun: “It's an interesting finding. 

“But we shouldn't automatically jump to translate what we see in the artificial world of a group of cells in a dish with a chemical put directly on to them, and a real world situation in which no association has been found.

“It is not immediately and directly translatable to a conclusion that parabens in the environment cause breast cancer in people. 

“We know there are parabens in the environment. We know they are used in products like shampoos. But they are used in tiny quantities and are very, very tightly regulated.

“There is no evidence from population studies that either exposure to parabens causes breast cancer, or that groups of individuals who see more parabens are more likely to get breast cancer.”

Prof Druce, a member of the Society for Endocrinology, added that there is no information on whether black women use more shampoo than white women, or how their skin may absorb it differently.

However, Dr Treviño claimed “Black women are more likely to buy and use hair products” with parabens in.

She added: “But we do not have a lot of data about how parabens may increase breast cancer risk in black women.

"This is because black women have not been picked to take part in most research studies looking at this link. 

“Also, studies to test this link have only used breast cancer cell lines from white women.”

There have been many large human studies looking at whether exposure to parabens causes cancer in humans, but it’s difficult, given there are so many other chemicals in daily life, and risk factors.

Cancer Research UK says: “Parabens do not cause cancer in humans, including breast cancer.

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“Parabens are used in personal care products as a preservative. This means that they allow products to last longer on the shelf.

“Some small studies in rats found that paraben might act like the hormone oestrogen, which is linked to breast cancer. But there’s no good evidence linking parabens to breast cancer in humans.”

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