Skin care products may increase risk of breast cancer


Estrogen in your moisturizer?
January 20, 2009 01:30

Moisturizers — particularly ones that “rejunevate” your skin — may contain estrogen without mentioning it in the ingredient list. This was the conclusion of a small study in the U.S.

For the study, 16 moisturizers were analyzed in a laboratory to see if they contained estrogen. The creams were all commonly available, and ranged in price from $10 to $100. Six of them contained measurable levels of estrogen. Yet none listed estrogenic hormones on the label.

This means that women may be exposing themselves to small amounts of estrogen without knowing it.

The leader of the study was Dr. Adrienne Olson, a doctor of pharmacy and a survivor of a type of breast cancer called estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, which is exacerbated by higher levels of estrogen in the body. She wondered during her own breast cancer treatment if she and other women might be dousing themselves daily with extra estrogen through their moisturizers.

She suspected that products promoting a youthful appearance might contain estrogen.

Olson, a volunteer for Breastlink in Long Beach, Calif., collected the 16 samples and sent them to a research laboratory where they were analyzed for the presence of estradiol, estrone and estriol. Her collaborators in the study were Dr. John Link (MD) and Dr. Tom Kupiec (PhD) of Analytical Research Laboratories in Oklahoma City, Okla.

One of the products was found to contain estrone and five of them contained estriol. Other products may contain lower levels of estrogen not detected in this test, said Olson.

It is not clear whether skin exposure to estrogens has an influence on ER-positive breast cancer, but Olson errs on the safe side.

“As an ER-positive breast cancer survivor, I am now choosing to use baby oil — until further data is available,” she told Metro in an e-mail message.

Olson presented her study at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in late 2008. She did not give out brand names of estrogen-containing products because companies frequently change their formulas.

The main purpose of the study was to encourage the cosmetics industry to produce moisturizers free of estrogen and label them as such. Right now, she said, goverment monitoring of ingredients in these products is spotty and inconsistent.

Olson also hopes that moisturizers will be further scrutinized by experts. “We need others in the scientific community and the USFDA to repeat and expand upon these numbers,” she said.

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