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Less risky products
There is no proven link between breast cancer and household products, but a variety of goods contain hormone disruptors, chemicals that can mimic or interfere with hormones such as estrogen. Some researchers believe that these chemicals can cause normal breast cells to divide.
“Each time they divide, they have the risk of copying DNA incorrectly and creating mutations, which may lead to increased breast cancer risk,” says Suzanne Snedeker, PhD, the associate director for translational research for the Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors at Cornell University.
“We are not saying if you use a certain product with these ingredients it will cause breast cancer," Snedeker says. "But the science suggests your risk may be reduced if you avoid them." Here are a few ways to play it safe.
Choose a safe shampoo
Remember when washing your hair was simple? Just pick a product off the shelf and bring it home. Now there is growing concern about a family of preservatives, called parabens, used in small amounts in some shampoos (and soaps, conditioners, and cosmetics). When absorbed into the body, parabens are a suspected hormone disruptor. If you are concerned about parabens, start by closely reading ingredients: Consider avoiding products that contain methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, or isobutylparaben, and opt instead for paraben-free alternatives such as Avalon Organics’ line (look for the Consciousness in Cosmetics seal) or Jason Lavender Shampoo Hair Strengthening.
Switch your water bottle
Although it’s crucial to keep hydrated, researchers have been paying attention to the impact that some types of plastic water bottles may have on the body. Not only do they clog landfills, but many rigid, transparent bottles and containers contain bisphenol A (BPA), a suspected environmental estrogen that can leach out of food and beverage containers when subject to heat, wear and tear, or harsh detergents. Consider recycling your polycarbonate plastic bottle and check out BPA-free models by Klean Kanteen or CamelBak, or opt for stainless steel or glass containers.
Lather up more naturally
We want to feel like our soap is making us clean, not adding to our toxic load. One option is to avoid liquid soap that contains triclosan, an antimicrobial agent used in many antibacterial products that has been linked to hormone disruption in animals. (It's also uncertain whether antibacterial soaps are any more effective than regular soaps.) Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure-Castile classic soaps or Burt’s Bees Citrus & Ginger Root Hand Soap are alternatives.
Rethink your lotion
Phthalates are chemicals that are sometimes used in fragrances found in personal care products as well as softeners in plastics. They may interfere with hormones in the body and have been suspected of contributing to early onset of puberty in girls and altering male reproductive development. Look for lotions, creams, and shampoos labeled phthalate-free, or opt for those that don't list fragrance as an ingredient. Wild Natural Beauty's Sweet Harvest paraben- and phthalate-free natural body lotion is a good bet.
Opt for more natural laundry detergent
Most of us don’t think twice about our laundry detergent, but maybe it’s time to start. Many household cleaners and laundry detergents use cleaning agents called surfactants made from chemicals known as nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). When NPEs go down the drain and into the sewage system, they break down into nonylphenol and octylphenol—suspected environmental estrogens. To play it safe, shop for biodegradable detergents that use plant- or vegetable-based surfactants, such as coconut surfactant: Consider ECOS Liquid Laundry Detergent or Seventh Generation’s Natural 2X Concentrate Laundry Liquid.
Practice sunscreen safety
Skin cancer is a very real risk, and it’s important to take precautions when spending time in the sun. But some chemicals that act as UV screens (also known as UV filters) in products such as sunscreens, lipstick, and eye makeup are believed to have estrogenic qualities. What’s a concerned consumer to do? Avoid sunscreen and other products containing UV screens such as benzophenone-1, -2, -3, -4; homosalate; octyl methoxycinnamate; and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor. Instead, consider sun protection from companies like Kiss My Face (its paraben-free series) and California Baby. Of course, limit your sun exposure and wearing protective clothing like hats and long sleeves.
Read more about environmental estrogens and breast cancer risk.