Cosmetics, Environment and Breast Cancer

Recent research has detected the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled. Journal of Applied Toxicology March 2012;32930:219-232. Parabens are chemicals that have been shown to have estrogen-like properties, and estrogen is one of the hormones involved in the development of breast cancer.

The skin is the largest organ in our body.  It absorbs everything that you put onto it.  As a matter of fact, your body absorbs everything you inhale or ingest as well. Parabens can be found in a wide variety of consumer products such as deodorants, anti-perspirants, shampoos and conditioner, lotions, moisturizers, creams, lipstick, cosmetics, perfumes, drugs, sunscreens, toothpaste, household cleaners and food additives.

It is incumbent upon us to take responsibility for our own health and that of those entrusted to our care.  The simplest way to do this is to READ LABELS.I have recently tasked my husband with grocery shopping.  Much to his chagrin, the first attempts resulted in my rejecting many of the items he purchased.  

A quick course in food labeling remedied the matter. His only complaint is that it takes so much more time now, as he has to carefully make selections based on informed decisions. This is as it should be. Caveat emptor! Buyer beware! Begin by identifying the word paraben on labels.  The main sources are:

  • methyl paraben
  • ethyl paraben
  • propyl paraben
  • butly paraben
  • isobutyl paraben

Do not be misled by the words "All natural."  There are no laws governing the use of this word and it does NOT mean that there are no additives. To learn more about potentially dangerous chemicals in your cosmetics, read Skin Deep Report. I also recommend Clean Cures by Michael DeJong, which describes how to prepare natural cleaning products at home.

There is another class of estrogen-mimicking compounds called metals. Metals that can bind to cellular estrogen receptors and mimic the action of physiologic estrogens are: aluminum, copper, antimony, lead, arsenite, mercury, barium, nickel, cadmium, selenite, chromium, tin, cobalt and vanadate. reports that according to GreenMedInfo "...exposure to sodium selenite is difficult to avoid, as it is the primary source of supplemental selenium in mass market vitamins, foods, beverages, etc.  A predictable and long-known source of metallo estrogen exposure is aluminum-based anti-perspirants.

Cancer Research, March 15, 2012;72:1459, published a study which showed that women whose diets were high in cadmium are at greater risk of developing breast cancer. Cadmium is a heavy metal that can bind to estrogen receptors, mimicking the female hormone estrogen and has long been known to be carcinogenic.  

This study found that women whose cadmium intake was the highest were 21 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Dr. Mercola again reports that "cadmium leaches into crops from fertilizers, or when rainfall or sewage sludge deposit it onto farmland.  Potatoes and whole grains are a couple of the primary sources of cadmium, but it is also present in air pollution from the burning of fossil fuel and can therefore, be inhaled."

The good news is that much of prevention of breast cancer is within our direct control.  Selecting foods with a conscious awareness of what the additives are is our foremost responsibility. Thankfully, most major food stores carry lines of USDA Organic produce, meats and poultry. It behooves us to spend the extra pennies as though it were a premium for health insurance.

The cosmetics industry, which includes perfumes, is a multibillion-dollar business.  I urge you to support those companies that produce products for our women that are free of parabens, fragrance, phthalates and additives. Please go to and for more information on products.

Lastly, I will opine about a topic that burns me up: sunscreen.  The chemicals contained in the most widely used brands of sunscreen are a toxic wasteground, in my humble opinion.  When I see the summer sun emerge and watch everyone slather themselves with parabens galore, I cringe.  Not only do we use it ourselves, but our babies are doused in chemicals all day, all summer long.  

To add insult to actual injury, sunscreen, coupled with the ubiquitous sunglasses, prevent  production and absorption of the most precious vitamin D3, whose activity is well researched as preventative for many cancers, notably skin cancer and colon cancer. One can find many brands of sunscreens that do not contain the offending parabens and other chemicals by simply googling "paraben free sunscreens" AND by reading labels.  

IF you wouldn't eat it or serve it to your family for dinner, don't put it on your skin! The best way to get natural sunshine and the vitamin D3 it generates is to expose your full body, unclothed, with eyes open to the sun for 20 minutes in the morning before 11 a.m. and in the afternoon after 4 p.m.

The best way to avoid overexposure and the damaging burning of the skin that results is to wear protective clothing.  That is, a hat, and long sleeves to cover up with at the beach if you are planning on staying all day.  You can use sunblocks like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, but be aware that nanoparticles have inherent absorptive risks as well.

Nanoparticles are particles between 1-100 nm.  Zinc oxide is one of the safest and most effective sunscreen ingredients.  It protects from UVA and UVB rays and does not enter the body through the skin.  Particles larger than 30 nm are deemed safe when used in sunscreen creams.  When particles are larger than 100 nm they are called non-nano.

The larger the particle, the less absorption. One product manufactured by Badger claims that their smallest particle size is 120 nm and therefore confidently claims that their Zinc Oxide is non-nano. Good old-fashioned common sense always prevails. I might postulate that common sense has seemingly been bred out of us as we have been taught to buy, buy, buy everything, yes, under the sun!  

My mom used to call us to come in and get out of the sun for awhile. We would have lunch, maybe take a nap or play games.  Then, back out when the sun was less hot. Tropical cultures do this as a matter of fact.  They close stores and go home for lunch and a siesta during the hours of noon-3 p.m.  It is simply good sense and cultural wisdom.

Americans...we are oblivious. We want, do and have more. Then we will treat the effects with drugs and surgery. It is my fondest desire that my readers will take this article to heart and begin to make the changes that will actually move toward harnessing some of the factors that cause this horrendous disease of breast cancer.

Hereditary predilections to a disease also encompass learned dietary and lifestyle changes. These are most assuredly in your control. Please don't bury your head in the sand.

May The Blessings Be!

About The Author

Dr. Nancy Gahles is a recognized expert in the field of integrative healthcare. She is in family practice as a Doctor of Chiropractic, nutritionist, Classical Homeopath and yoga/meditation instructor for over 30 years. She serves the workforce through consulting on integrative healthcare issues via TeleHealth and Harmony.

Dr. Gahles is Director of Public Education and Advocacy for the National Center for Homeopathy and Chair of the Federal Policy Committee of the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium. Visit her at or e-mail at