Sorry, men, but today’s report is mostly for our women listeners: Cosmetics and personal care products could be altering your hormones in a way that affects your health, a study has found. The research is the first to examine the relationship between the chemicals found in those products and hormonal changes in reproductive-age women.
Researchers from George Mason University tested 509 urine samples from 143 women for chemicals such as benzophenones [benz-o-PHEEN-ones], which provide ultraviolet radiation protection, and parabens [par-uh-bens], which are used as preservatives. The study is unique in that it used multiple measures of exposure to 13 commonly used chemicals.
Fluctuating hormone levels matter because those changes have been linked to cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and other health problems.
The analysis is significant because it more closely represents “real world” chemical exposure among women who typically use multiple products. Two classes of chemicals, phenols [fē-nōls] and parabens, were associated with ovarian and pituitary hormone levels. Even low-level exposure to various chemicals may affect levels of reproductive hormones, they found. The research also demonstrated how various combinations of the chemicals found can have vastly different effects — lowering hormone levels in some cases and raising them in others.
The main message is that there needs to be more vigilance and awareness about the chemicals used in personal care products, the researchers noted. There are early indications that parabens can boost estrogens levels. That, in turn, could have implications for estrogen-related diseases such as breast cancer.