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What Are Parabens?: In the beauty community, there is a word that has become feared over the past several years – Parabens. These chemical compounds are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in many shampoos, moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solutions, makeup and toothpaste  – and are typically added to prolong shelf life. They work very similarly to food preservatives which help prevent food from spoiling too soon; parabens help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold on your cosmetic products. There are many products that contain parabens but skincare, roll-on antiperspirants and makeup are the most common objects that increase our paraben exposure. 
Parabens And Breast Cancer: There have been different studies on the effect of paraben exposure to the body — and some of the results are very worrying. A 2013 study published by Charles and Darbre focused on the estrogenic effect of parabens and their effect on human breast cancer cells. The study found that parabens in any form or concentration caused stimulation of breast cells, leading to cancerous growths. Darbre published another study in 2014 and found that parabens increased energy metabolism in breast tissue, which can account for the sudden growth and spread of the cancerous cells. Khanna, et. al. in 2014 found that exposure to parabens increased the metastatic ability of breast cancer cells, or the ability to spread and invade healthy tissues. 
Controversy: Despite these studies, the ACS and FDA have stated that parabens are not dangerous at the levels found in typical consumer products.  Astonishingly, the ACS has turned a 100% blind eye to the studies mentioned and stated that the concern over parabens is the result of an “email rumor”!  Can it really be that they are unaware of these studies? Are they selectively ignoring them? Or is there some other reason why they consider the research unworthy of consideration? They have stated plainly that there is “very little scientific evidence” – to which we can only answer that we have presented 3 published scientific studies here and you can check the links for yourself.
How Are We Exposed To Parabens? The most common route we are exposed to parabens (and which is regarded by some as the route that causes increased breast cancer risk) is increased is through deodorants or antiperspirants. Whenever you swipe a deo stick on your armpit, you are willingly introducing parabens (as well as numerous other chemicals, some of which have also been implicated) to your body and – according to the studies referenced, increasing your risk for cancer. However parabens are in all manner of products. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, parabens can be found in “nearly all urine samples” taken from adults residing in the US, regardless of their background and socioeconomic status. It has been proposed that parabens’ “estrogenic effect” is the reason why it can cause cancer. By mimicking the effects of the hormone estrogen, paraben causes the sudden growth of cells in the breast, which may become uncontrolled and cancerous. 
What You Can Do: The first thing to realize is that you are not required to use these consumer products. You do have a choice – though it will take some self-discipline and diligence. The next time you head to the supermarket, think twice before you reach for deodorant or antiperspirant. Instead of wasting money on something that can potentially give you cancer, seek the natural route instead. First you can look for products with “paraben free” labeling. The next step is to check the ingredients. Look for methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216),butylparaben and heptylparaben (E209). Less common parabens include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben and benzylparaben. 
Alternatively – you can make your own! See our post How to Make Your Own Natural Deodorants Without Toxic Chemical Ingredients for instructions and ingredient lists.
 US Food and Drug Administration. Parabens in Cosmetics. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm128042.htm
 Charles, A. & Darbre, P. (2013). Combinations of parabens at concentrations measured in human breast tissue can increase proliferation of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23364952
 Darbre, P. & Harvey, P. (2014). Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25047802
 Khanna, S., Dash, P. & Darbre, P. (2014). Exposure to parabens at the concentration of maximal proliferative response increases migratory and invasive activity of human breast cancer cells in vitro. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24652746
 “Parabens In Cosmetics” – FDA. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm128042.htm
 “Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk” – American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk?sitearea=MED
 Breast Cancer Fund. Parabens. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/radiation-chemicals-and-breast-cancer/parabens.html