Parabens, chemicals widely used as a preservative in cosmetics, food products and pharmaceuticals has been found in tissue samples from 40 women with breast cancer.
A number of studies since 1998 have raised concerns about the potential role of parabens in breast cancer as they possess oestrogenic properties.
Oestrogen is known to play a central role in the development, growth and progression of breast cancer.
Parabens are a chemical compound found in everyday toiletry products including moisturizers, make-up, shaving foam, tanning lotions and toothpaste.
The chemicals are also found in numerous brands of underarm deodorant. However, a causal link has never been found between them and breast cancer.
Parabens are also present in processed meats such as sausages, pies and pastries along with other savory snacks.
The research team led by Dr. Philippa Darbre from the University of Reading in UK studied tissue samples from 40 women undergoing mastectomies between 2005 and 2008 for first primary breast cancer in England.
In total, 160 samples were collected, 4 from each woman. They found 99% of the tissue samples contained at least one paraben and 60% of the samples had five.
The research team found women who didn’t use underarm deodorants still had measurable parabens in their tissue, suggesting they must enter the breast from other sources.
Co-author Lester Barr from the University Hospital of South Manchester, UK, said: “Our study appears to confirm the view that there is no simple cause and effect relationship between parabens in underarm products and breast cancer.
“The intriguing discovery that parabens are present even in women who have never used underarm products raises the question: where have these chemicals come from?”
Dr. Philippa Darbre added: “The fact that parabens were detected in the majority of the breast tissue samples cannot be taken to imply that they actually caused breast cancer in the 40 women studied.
“However, the fact that parabens were present in so many of the breast tissue samples does justify further investigation.”
Responding to research, Catherine Priestley, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care said: “The debate about the link between parabens and breast cancer is not a new one, and this report serves to highlight the need for further research.
“There is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest that the use of products containing parabens is directly linked to the development of breast cancer.
“Whilst there are a number of factors that may slightly increase the risk of a person developing breast cancer, increasing age, gender (being female) and a significant family history are the three main risk factors.
“It is important that people should have access to information on this issue and about their risk factors for breast cancer so that they can make informed lifestyle choices.”