By the way, doctor: Are parabens dangerous?

Q I notice that parabens are found in many cosmetics and skin care products. I heard that they're carcinogenic. Is that true?

A Parabens (short for -hydroxybenzoic acid esters) are preservatives that are used in shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, and many other personal care products. By hindering the growth of microorganisms, parabens give products a longer, more stable shelf life. These chemicals, which include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, also have weak estrogenic effects.

Although estrogen plays a role in breast cancer, there's no evidence that people who use paraben-containing products face an increased risk. In 2004, however, a small study found traces of parabens in breast cancer tissue, reigniting concern about these chemicals.

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