Hormone Health: Surprising Sunscreen Risk
Hormone Health: Surprising Sunscreen Risk
Have you ever seen oxybenzone or propylparaben listed on your bottle of sunscreen?
Oxybenzone is an active ingredient to block UV rays. Propylparaben is an antimicrobial preservative. Both chemicals have previously been tested for safety.
‼ BUT….new research out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst reveals a never before known risk of these chemicals on breast cells. ‼
Here’s the problem. Oxybenzone and propylparaben can mimic the eﬀects of estrogen. We call them XENOESTROGENS.
Scientists used to think that it would take a huge exposure to oxybenzone or propylparaben to harm cells in the human body (more than you would ever get by wearing sunscreen). But the new research shows that is not the case when it comes to breast cells.
They found that only 1/10 to 1/30 as much oxybenzone and propylparaben is needed to damage DNA in breast cells than in other cells of the body.
It’s because breast cells have estrogen receptors. Xenoestrogens found in natural and industrial compounds in our diet can act like estrogens and interfere with the natural pathways of estrogen signaling. They are literally “faking” estrogen receptors into thinking they are actually an estrogen hormone when in fact, they are in a class of endocrine (hormone) disrupters of a chemical nature.
Hormones actually don’t “do” anything but they do exert their actions through receptors. Hormones regulate and determine the function of their target cells and they do that by binding with their specific receptors. It turns out that chronic exposure to these types of estrogenic products has now been shown to raise the risk of breast cancer in both women and men.
Xenoestrogens appear to raise breast cancer risk through estrogen receptor controlled damage to DNA and through generating reactive oxygen species leading to cell damage through chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to chronic disease and in this case may lead to development of breast cancer. Estrogen hormones and their metabolites are known to cause direct damage to DNA, but usually at levels that are 100 times higher than what is normally found in the blood. This study published in 2020 is showing that DNA damage may occur at much lower levels of xenoestrogens than previously thought.
So what other exposures to xenoestrogen, even if you don’t use sunscreen, may be eﬀecting you? I might burst your bubble, but here is a list of the more common products that contain xenoestrogens and that you should try to avoid.
Fabric Softeners: They make your clothes smell and feel wonderful but there are xenoestrogen chemicals that make these products eﬀective.
Nail Polish: One of the most common and commonly used xenoestrogenic product found in most homes.
Plastic food containers: Plastic is really made from petroleum (oil) and plastic can leak xenoestrogens into our food. This actually gets worse if plastic is exposed to heat as in a microwave. Take your food out of plastic to reheat it using a diﬀerent material (like glass).
Water bottles: In addition to the significant amount of plastic waste generated from drinking bottled water, the plastic used to make the bottle leaks xenoestrogens into what you’re drinking. And plenty of people reuse the same plastic water bottle, making it a double dip of potential risk. It is best to use a good home water filter and carry water with you in a non plastic container designed from which to drink.
Styrofoam: A common reason for using styrofoam cups is drinking coﬀee. Many restaurants use styrofoam take home boxes for putting hot food in to take home. Those same boxes are also microwaved to reheat that food later that day or the next. Exactly like plastic, styrofoam is known well for leaking xenoestrogens into what they are containing. Also like plastic, styrofoam takes a long, long time to degrade.
Car Exhaust: Remnants of gasoline (petroleum product) are chock full of nasty things you shouldn’t breathe, including xenoestrogens. Keep your window rolled up while you’re in traﬃc.
Non-Organic Fruits and Vegetables: The Commercial Food Production industry is known quite for well for pesticide use to get their food to market. Organic food should not have been exposed to harmful chemical or pesticides. Guess what pesticides have in them? You guess it so if you buy non-organic food, make sure you wash it thoroughly to get rid of any xenoestrogens and other chemicals before you put it in your mouth.
Non-Organic Meat: Livestock not raised organically are frequently given hormones to help them grow and are fed grain that has been treated with pesticide and ends up in the fat of the meat. There are companies (like Moink) that raise organic livestock.
Non-Organic Dairy: The same problem with the cow’d meat also eﬀects the milk that is produced from the dairy herd.
Perfumes/Scents: I have a degree in chemistry, almost went for a PhD in chemistry which would have had me university based as a researcher and teacher. There are lots of jobs for chemists in the perfume and scent industry and the chemicals used to create them also act as chemical estrogens. They are also placed in the products used to give your home such wonderful smells. Just another reason to consider using essential oils.
Paint: Avoid fumes or getting paint on you since this is a common source of exposure to xenoestrogens.
Solvents: Products such as rubbing alcohol, paint thinner and nail polish remover.
Glue: Don’t sniﬀ the fumes and wear gloves to avoid exposure to glue products which contain hormone disrupting chemicals.
Household: Parabens are mentioned above in sunscreens but are also present in lotions, deodorants, personal lubricants, makeup, hair care products and toothpaste. Look for the label paraben-free. Basically, anything that is a fragrance or a scent will probably contain paraben as well as phthalates the latter of which does not have to be disclosed on the label of the product. Phthalates act to bind a scent to clothes, your skin or polish to your nails. Triclosan is antibacterial and was banned in the United States except for use in hand sanitizers, toothpaste and mouthwash.
These chemicals interact with estrogen receptors leading to the problems mentioned above with cell DNA damage. They also create a situation known as estrogen dominance that leads to imbalance of hormones in the body. Estrogen dominance has been linked to estrogen induced cancers as well as common reproductive problems in women including fibrocystic breasts, fibroids, endometriosis and menstrual irregularities. These chemicals are also known to cause sperm damage in men which may be why male fertility rates have been declining for over 30 years.
So what can be done about these types of exposures? One thing you can do is increase cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts in your diet. When you eat these, a compound called Diindolylmethane (DIM) is produced. DIM is thought to help balance estrogen levels in the body potentially getting rid of estrogen dominance and its myriad of health issues. In observational studies, those who eat large amounts of cruciferous vegetables appear to have reduced rates of certain hormone dependent cancers like breast and prostate cancer. DIM may increase production of a less potent form of estrogen called 2-hydroyestrone and also inhibits the aromatase enzyme which converts testosterone to estrogen. Other food sources for DIM include collards, bok choy, turnips, radishes, cabbage and cauliflower.
The diﬃculty with getting DIM is that you have to eat significant amounts of cruciferous vegetables to get the overall benefit of this compound. Most people supplement with DIM to obtain estrogen balance. In my Fullscript dispensary, I have selected a good DIM product that contains 100 mg of diindolylmethane made from naturally from cruciferous vegetables. Here is the link:
I’m not saying to stop wearing sunscreen. Sunburn and skin cancer are not great options either. I’m also not telling you to quit brushing your teeth, cleaning your house or washing your clothes. Just look at the ingredients the next time you buy a bottle of anything.
Plenty of sunscreens and other products, as well as food, are available with limited chemicals or preservatives.
If you’ve looked through your house and found these types of products, let us know in the comments. And if you need help with any health concern, we are here to help you. Find us at www.healthwithoutrisk.com and on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Majhi PD, Sharma A, Roberts AL et al. Eﬀects of Benzophenone-3 and Propylparaben on Estrogen Receptor-Dependent R-Loops and DNA Damage in Breast Epithelial Cells and Mice. Environ Health Perspect. 2020; 128: 17002. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/EHP5221