Cancer is a frightening prospect, so it's no wonder so many studies are conducted to research the effects of certain substances and their relation to cancer. But with so many studies out there, it can be difficult to separate established scientific fact from less-than-reliable word of mouth. You may have heard there's a link between parabens -- especially in antiperspirants and deodorants -- and breast cancer. Because so many products contain parabens, the possibility that they may be linked to cancer has garnered a lot of attention. However, studies have been inconclusive so far -- in fact, there's been at least one significant study that found no link between parabens and increased cancer risk [source: American Cancer Society].
Parabens have been a focus in cancer studies because they have estrogen-like, or hormonal, properties. Because estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer tissue, some researchers are concerned that parabens may have a similar effect when absorbed through the skin. Scientists were particularly concerned about parabens in antiperspirants and deodorants because they're applied near breast tissue [source: National Cancer Institute].
A 2004 study revealed that parabens do build up in breast tumors -- the study found parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from human breast tumors. However, the test didn't test healthy breast tissue, so there's no conclusive evidence that paraben buildup caused the tumors. Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the FDA has found evidence that preservatives -- including parabens -- in antiperspirants or other skin care products cause cancer [source: National Cancer Institute]. Scientists say more testing must be completed to make a conclusive ruling about the connection between tumors and parabens -- but at this point, they say there's little cause for concern [source: Mayo Clinic].
While no conclusive link has been found between parabens and breast cancer, you may decide to avoid products that contain parabens as a precaution. Keep reading to learn about paraben-free lotions.