Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum.
Subject: Breast (Research)
Parabens (Measurement)
Parabens (Research)
Authors: Barr, L.
Metaxas, G.
Harbach, C.A.
Pub Date: 03/01/2012
Publication: Name: Alternative Medicine Review Publisher: Thorne Research Inc. Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Thorne Research Inc. ISSN: 1089-5159
Issue: Date: March, 2012 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Accession Number: 286390901
Full Text: Barr L, Metaxas G, Harbach CA, et al. J Appl Toxicol 2012;32:219-232.

The concentrations of five esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) were measured using HPLC-MS/MS at four serial locations across the human breast from axilla to sternum using human breast tissue collected from 40 mastectomies for primary breast cancer in England between 2005 and 2008. One or more paraben esters were quantifiable in 158/160 (99%) of the tissue samples and in 96/160 (60%) all five esters were measured. Variation was notable with respect to individual paraben esters, location within one breast and similar locations in different breasts. Overall median values in nanograms per gram tissue for the 160 tissue samples were highest for n-propylparaben [16.8 (range 0-2052.7)] and methylparaben [16.6 (range 0-5102.9)]; levels were lower for n-butylparaben [5.8(range 0-95.4)], ethylparaben [3.4 (range 0-499.7)] and isobutylparaben 2.1 (range 0-802.9). The overall median value for total paraben was 85.5 ngg(-1) tissue (range 0-5134.5). The source of the paraben cannot be identified, but paraben was measured in the 7/40 patients who reported never having used underarm cosmetics in their lifetime. No correlations were found between paraben concentrations and age of patient (37- 91 years), length of breast feeding (0-23 months), tumour location or tumour oestrogen receptor content. In view of the disproportionate incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant, paraben concentrations were compared across the four regions of the breast: n-propylparaben was found at significantly higher levels in the axilla than mid (P = 0.004 Wilcoxon matched pairs) or medial (P = 0.021 Wilcoxon matched pairs) regions (P = 0.010 Friedman ANOVA). PMID: 22237600


Parabens (alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid) are commonly used as preservatives in a number of consumer products, because of their antimicrobial activity. They are found in pharmaceuticals, foods, and cosmetics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals reported that parabens were present in 99 percent of all urine samples tested. Parabens have demonstrated the ability to be absorbed dermally, and previous studies have shown parabens to be higher in breast tumor tissue. This current study used breast tissue from 40 mastectomies in England. Each breast had tissue taken from 4 different regions (axillary, lateral, mid, and medial), for a total of 160 tissue samples. All but two of the samples contained parabens, and all 40 of the mastectomized breasts were positive for these compounds. The highest concentration of these parabens was found in the axillary region, where coincidently the greatest number of breast cancers is found. Interestingly, 7 of these 40 women (17.5%) were adamant about never having used underarm cosmetics. Prior to this finding it has been assumed that the parabens in the breast tissue were due to the use of underarm paraben-containing cosmetics. But the findings of this study suggest a possibility that local application might not be needed and that parabens might be transported to breast tissue. Whatever the means of finding their way to breast tissue, it makes sense to stop paraben entry into the body by carefully choosing what one eats and puts onto their skin.
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