Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers,shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.Their efficacy as preservatives, in combination with their low cost, the long history of their use, and the inefficacy of natural alternatives like grapefruit seed extract (GSE), probably explains why parabens are so commonplace. They are becoming increasingly controversial, however, because they have been found in high concentrations in breast cancer tumors. Common parabens include methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216) andbutylparaben. Less common parabens include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben and their sodium salts.
Several peer-reviewed studies have reported results that indirectly support a correlation between the presence of parabens and the occurrence of breast cancer. High levels of parabens have been detected in breast tumors, with one UK-based study finding high concentrations of parabens in eighteen out of twenty samples of breast tumors. These findings, along with the demonstrated ability of parabens to mimic estrogen, a hormone known to play a role in the development of breast cancers, have led some scientists to conclude that the presence of parabens is associated with the occurrence of breast cancer, and to call for investigation into whether or not a causal link exists. The lead researcher of the UK study, molecular biologist Philippa Darbre, reported that the ester-bearing form of the parabens found in the tumors indicate that they came from something applied to the skin, such as an underarm deodorant, cream or body spray, and stated that the results helped to explain why up to 60% of all breast tumors are found in just one-fifth of the breast – the upper-outer quadrant, nearest the underarm. “From this research it is not possible to say whether parabens actually caused these tumors, but they may certainly be associated with the overall rise in breast cancer cases. Given that breast cancer is a large killer of women and a very high percentage of young women use underarm deodorants, I think we should be carrying out properly funded, further investigations into parabens and where they are found in the body,” says Philip Harvey, an editor of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, which published the research. A 2004 study at Northwestern University found that an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. “I personally feel there is a very strong correlation between the underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer,” said immunologist Dr. Kris McGrath, the author of the study.
Animal experiments have shown that parabens have weak estrogenic activity, acting as xenoestrogens. In an in vivo study, the effect of butylparaben was determined to be approximately 100,000 times weaker than that of estradiol, and was only observed at a dose level approximately 25,000 times higher than the level typically used to preserve products. The study also found that the in vivoestrogenic activity of parabens is reduced by about three orders of magnitude compared to in vitro activity. The estrogenic activity of parabens increase with the length of the alkyl group. It is believed that propylparaben is estrogenic to a certain degree as well, though this is expected to be less than butylparaben by virtue of its less lipophilic nature. Since it can be concluded that the estrogenic activity of butylparaben is negligible under normal use, the same should be concluded for shorter analogs.
Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.
Okay, may be Parabens ar not as bad as we imagine, but if we cannot be sure, better to avoid them. Anyway, it is important to remember, that cosmetic and food manufacturers are not interested to tell us the truth about cheap ingredients they use – it is BUSINESS, my friends! If they’ll get cheaper ingredients, they’ll get more money, simply as 2+2=4!