Parabens which are commonly encountered in popular cosmetics and other personal-care products are more carcinogenic than previously thought, an alarming study has shown.
The findings, published on October 27 in the journal Environmental Health Perspective, are based on research conducted by experts at the Silent Spring Institute and the University of California, Berkeley.
The scientists initially analyzed breast cancer cells, with two types of receptors: HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) and estrogen receptors.
It was revealed that around a quarter of malignant cells are abundant in HER2 receptors, and the amplification of these genes causes breast cancer to develop more aggressively and rapidly, in comparison with other such tumors.
Given these preliminary findings, experts used a growth factor named heregulin in order to activate these HER2 receptors within human breast cancer cells.
They also exposed these cells to parabens, and discovered that the ubiquitous preservatives have a devastating effect when combined with heregulin, by making breast cancer cells grow and divide uncontrollably.
In cells which hadn’t received heregulin, concentrations of parabens which were 100 times higher were required to mimic this influence on HER2 and estrogen receptors.
Therefore, researchers now believe that parabens are in fact much more life-threatening than previously believed, and that even smaller doses can have severe consequences.
Given these findings, they recommend stricter regulations when it comes to the safe concentrations of parabens accepted in day-to-day domestic products, such as cosmetics, shampoos, shaving creams, sun screens, lotions and moisturizers.
These chemicals had been known in the past for their ability to mimic estrogen, by activating the same receptors as estradiol.
They had been considered a likely contributing factor to breast cancer, as well as to a variety of endocrine and reproductive disorders, but it appears that their potential as carcinogenic agents hasn’t been assessed correctly.
Previously, their effect had been considered negligible, but now it was proven that when combined with other agents that influence cell growth the consequences are tremendous, according to lead investigator Dale Leitman, adjunct professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley.
In fact, although the current study analyzed parabens, this might be the case with other compounds that mimic estrogen as well, researchers have warned.
As a result, it is recommended to adapt testing approaches in order to assess more carefully and reliably the real dangers of such substances, based on their actual interactions with other cell molecules.
Analyzing such chemicals in isolation during lab studies and animal studies doesn’t begin to reveal their true effects on human health, and the damage they can bring when it comes to stimulating cell proliferation can be insurmountable.
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