Best Health Magazine has an excellent article on the debate over parabens in skincare products. Go here to read the whole article, but below are some excerpts.

Why are Parabens Used?
“Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products; they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.”

What Is the Concern Around Parabens?
“Some of the questions being asked: Is the rising incidence of breast cancer linked in part to the fact that parabens, which have a weak ability to mimic estrogen, have been found in breast cancer tumours and can be isolated from other body tissues? Are declining sperm counts and increasing rates of male breast cancer and testicular cancer related to the fact that these chemicals can be absorbed into our skin, potentially disrupting our endocrine systems?

We don’t know yet. But some researchers feel there may be reason for concern.”

Parabens and Breast Cancer
“’We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors,’ says Darbre [Philippa Darbre, a senior lecturer in oncology and researcher in biomolecular sciences at the University of Reading, in England]. ‘So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.’”

“Darbre is particularly concerned about lotions and deodorants being applied under the arms or near the breast, and hasn’t used underarm deodorant herself for 10 years, opting instead to use just soap and water. She notes that research has found that roughly 55 percent of all breast cancer tumours occur in the upper outside portion of the breast, the section closest to the underarm. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has partly dismissed the claim, maintaining that at present, there is no decisive evidence to conclude that the parabens in these products are linked to breast cancer, but that more research is needed.”

Better to Err on the Side of Caution?
“For consumers like Jude Isabella, a Victoria mom and the editor of a national children’s science magazine, the debate, while inconclusive, is enough for her to limit her exposure. Since cancer runs in her family, she shops for cosmetic products labelled “paraben free,” including expensive organic deodorant from a health food store for her two teenage boys. ‘Why slather yourself with chemicals when we don’t yet have the answer? I’m not paranoid, but I’d rather err on the side of caution,’ she says.”