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by author, natural beauty expert & cancer survivor Britta AragonRSS



Estrogen Everywhere: Hormones Linked to Breast Cancer in Your Skin-Care Products?

By Britta Aragon on November 25, 2009 | 8 Comments

Science still isn’t sure what causes breast cancer. Most likely, it’s a myriad of things dependent on a person’s genetic makeup, diet, lifestyle, exposure to dangerous chemicals, and stress levels. However, researchers have long speculated that estrogen—a hormone necessary for normal development and growth of the breasts and organs important for childbearing—may have something to do with it. According to researchers from Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors (BCERF) in New York, estrogen may be implicated in breast-cancer risk because of 1) its role in stimulating breast cell division; 2) its work during the critical periods of breast growth and development; 3) its effect on other hormones that stimulate breast-cell division; and 4) its support of the growth of estrogen-responsive tumors. Women with high lifetime exposures to estrogen may be at higher risk, BCERF concludes.

So, based on what we know so far, it makes sense for most women to try to reduce their exposure to estrogen. However, just how to do that seems to be getting more complicated. Most of us know that hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause has been discouraged by health organizations because of studies linking it with an increased risk of breast cancer. And the debate continues on birth control pills, as to whether or not today’s low-estrogen formulas do anything to raise risk. (Some studies have shown a slight increased risk, others have shown no change in risk, while multiple studies have shown birth control to decrease risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.) However, we don’t expect to have to worry about estrogen exposure from food, plastic containers, or skin-care products. Unfortunately, that is the reality of today, and women wanting to reduce their risk will want to become more aware of what they’re putting in and around their bodies.

First, we have the estrogens found in food, or in plants used as foods. These are usually called “phytoestrogens,” and are found in soybeans and tofu (which is why these foods are often recommended for post-menopausal women who are low on natural estrogen), and in some whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, unlike synthetic forms of estrogen, these natural forms seem to help reduce the risk of breast cancer, mostly because they act like estrogen in the body, but are less potent, and so are thought to help women avoid estrogen-related disease.

Next, we have the environmental estrogens—synthetic chemicals that can act like human estrogen. Research has found that these estrogens can increase cell division and potentially contribute to breast cancer risk. These types of estrogens are found in pesticides, food preservatives like BHT and BHA, compounds used in plastics like bisphenol A and pthalates, food dye Red #3, and formaldehyde (used in making carpets, plywood, and some nail polishes). Science still isn’t sure of the impact of these estrogens, but theorizes that the more exposure one has, the bigger potential for increased risk of cancer.

Finally, we have estrogens showing up in our personal-care products. We’ve already posted about phthalates, parabens, and other hormone-like chemicals. Here’s something new: a recent report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology warns that rejuvenating skin creams often contain estrogen. In fact, 40 percent of those tested contained what researchers are calling significant amounts (up to 0.61%) of estriol or estrone, two potent forms of estrogen. According to skincarerx.org, estrogen is “used in some facial creams designed for dry and lined skin and permitted in creams by the FDA in low dosages.” Estrogen helps the skin retain water, and may improve skin tone on a limited basis—but at what risk? Dr. Lorne Brandes, writing for CTV MedNews Express, warns women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer to be especially concerned about any product that could raise the level of blood estrogen through the skin. Healthy women, as well, need to be concerned about their overall exposure to estrogens.

How can you tell if your moisturizer contains estrogenic compounds? First, check out our list of ingredients to avoid, and stay away from products that contain parabens, pthalates, chemical sunscreens, and the like. Next—since estrogens aren’t always listed on the label (those in the previous study were not)—buy from reputable companies producing organic and natural products, like jeune d’age, Burt’s Bees, and Pristine Planet, among others. Check your favorite products against the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for safety.

Have you found a favorite hormone-free skin-care product? Let us know.

Photo courtesy si-art via Flickr.com.

Posted in: Skin, Lip and Body Care, Toxic Talk and Labels


8 Comments to “Estrogen Everywhere: Hormones Linked to Breast Cancer in Your Skin-Care Products?”

  1. sesame says:

    This article is so informative! I happen to be thinking of this and just last night, ran a search about the soy connection to estrogen! I’ll be writing something on this too next week and will definitely want to link to this post.

  2. Britta says:

    Thanks for the support Sesame and thank you for reaching out and commenting. Please continue to spread the word! – Britta

  3. As you stated in this article we are exposed to so many things that act like estrogen in our bodies. Plastics, household cleaners, environmental toxins, pesticides, hormones in our foods. Eating cruciferous vegetables will help to release estrogens in the body.

  4. Mick says:

    hey there cinco vidas,

    there’s an awful lot of things to avoid when it comes to beauty and skin care, right? it makes me a lot about it. if this is the case then i’d better stick to the naturals than taking the risk of stumbling upon any harsh chemicals. really scary.

  5. Britta says:

    Hi Mick! Thanks so much for commenting! Unfortunately we do have to be extremely careful about what’s in our personal care products. Going with natural and certified-organic products is always a safe bet, however, you must always read labels to be sure. If you need a little help as you shop you can download my ingredients to avoid card and take it with you to use as a guide http://blog.cincovidas.com/ingredients-to-avoid-2. Hope that this helps. If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out to me and ask! – Britta

  6. Claudia says:

    this is really a great article. That’s exactly what I was
    looking for. Very informative in a simple language that we all understand. I’m a certified oncology esthetician and would like to learn more about chemist and ingredients in skin care and really dont know where to go with safe und trustful information online. Now I found you and i’m happy to persue with my studies. Please let me know what I should search for additiional education in this field. Thank you
    (New Jersey)

  7. Britta says:

    Hi Claudia, thanks so much for commenting. I’m so glad that you find our site useful. I’m so happy to hear that you are certified to help those going through cancer with your esthetics work and that you are committed to learn more about ingredients in skin care. in addition to my site you can check out The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics database at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. Did you get certified through Morag’s program? If not, here is a great book for you that she wrote: Oncology Esthetics: A Practicioners Guide that you will find very helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me if I can be of any additional help. Best – Britta

  8. Jeri Dunlap says:

    I have just recently become very concerned about the number of toxins in skin care. This came about when my friend told me about the skin care I had been using that contains many toxins, one which has even been banned in Europe. I immediately stopped using that line of products and am extremely excited about my friend’s suggestion for safe skin care: L’BRI. In fact, I am now selling this product and trying to educate my friends about how great L’BRI products work and yet how soothing and safe they are.


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