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Breast cancer from parabens?

Parabens are chemical compounds that have antibacterial and fungicidal properties. They are currently used as preservatives in over 22,000 cosmetic and medicinal products. Parabens are derived from naturally occurring para-hydroxybenzoic acid, which is present in numerous fruits and vegetables, such as cherries, cucumbers, cherries, cucumbers, carrots and onions.


Many salts and esters of parabens are known. It has been established in animal tests that following oral exposure, methylparaben is rapidly and completely absorbed, metabolised and excreted.


Owing to their oestrogen-like structure, some parabens are suspected of being endocrine disruptors. It is known from animal experiments that they can affect the hormone system and can bind to oestrogen receptors in vivo and in vitro. However, they seem to be considerably weaker than oestradiol. 

As early as in 2004, British researchers published a study in which they had detected parabens in breast tumours. 

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) evaluated the study design and declared in a statement dated 13 February 2004 that there was no connection between paraben-containing deodorants and the development of breast cancer. The dose of parabens was said to be too low to indicate relevant bioactivity.

A study from 2005 – 2006 with 2,548 participants was able to show that methyl- and propylparaben was detected in the urine of almost every subject. Moreover, the measured concentration was significantly higher in women. This was explained by the more frequent use of cosmetic products. 

Despite emerging concerns, in its Statement No. 009/2011 of 28 January 2011, the BfR did not believe a “replacement of parabens in cosmetics across the board (…) to be useful.” The statement also noted that “many of the other preservatives currently used would have a considerably higher allergenic potential than parabens”. 


In a 2012 study, Harvey and Everett detected one or more paraben esters in 99 percent of 160 samples from 40 breast cancer-related mastectomies. 

However, to date there is a lack of toxicological studies and evidence for the carcinogenic effects of parabens. So far, only four parabens have been investigated in tests on rats (ethyl-, methyl-, butyl-, and propylparaben).


Update 11/01/2021

In 2020, a study at the Berlin Charité showed that the urine of pregnant women, cosmetics containing parabens, such as skin creams. used up to three times more paraben compounds than usual. Observation of children up to the age of eight showed that butyl paraben was associated with a doubled risk of obesity. The effect was stronger in girls than in boys - presumably because butyl paraben has an estrogen-like effect.

The recommendation of paraben-containing care products and medicinal products should therefore be carefully considered. 

The best known parabens:

Table parabens.png

Echa profiles:









Details on maximum concentrations can be found here

© Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Susanne Saha 04/2021

>> Download our information sheet on parabens for your patients <<

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