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    Inactive but controversial OTC product ingredients

    What you need to know to better inform your patients


    Take parabens, for example

    Do a Google search on parabens, which, according to the Food and Drug Administration are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products such as soap, shampoo, conditioner and moisturizers, and you’ll get a mix of educational and scary articles.

    Parabens are preservatives that extend product shelf-life and prevent bacterial and fungal growth. Common parabens are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

    It’s not always the product that’s unsafe, but rather the way it’s used, says one expert.

    READ: An explanation of parabens for patients

    “Parabens are very effective preservatives when used at the appropriate levels — the levels that have the toxicology data that shows they are safe,” says Laura Goodman, M.S., senior scientist, P&G Skin Care Scientific Communications.

    Much of the concern comes from research that found parabens within samples of breast cancer tumors.

    “The hypothesis was these chemicals can act like estrogen in the body, and, because estrogen fuels certain breast cancers, exposure could increase tumor development and progression,” Dr. Friedman says. “That sounds kind of linear and makes sense. However, these studies were unable to show a causative role (or) demonstrate a conclusive connection between paraben exposure and an increased risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, reported paraben exposure and tissue levels did not correlate with tumor location, estrogen, or any attribute of breast cancer, so it is difficult to say this anything more than a hypothesis at this point.”

    Dr. Friedman says it’s easy for companies with an agenda to promote paraben-free skin and haircare products to twist the findings. But promoting parabens as cancer-causing is more propaganda than truth, he says. 

    NEXT: Consumer groups push for paraben-free products

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is president of Words Come Alive, based in Boca Raton, Florida.


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