A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

teenagers

Teenagers

Today, girls are entering puberty earlier than a generation ago. Data shows that girls get their first periods today, on average, a few months earlier than girls did 40 years ago, and they develop breasts one to two years earlier.[1] This trend may be due to exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds such as BPA and phthalates[2],[3] before and during puberty, when the reproductive system, including breast tissue, is extremely sensitive to low levels of estrogens.[4] The younger girls are when they enter puberty, the greater their risk of breast cancer later in life.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals including phthalates, parabens and other phenols are used in personal care products such as makeup, sunscreen, and soaps. Adolescent girls may be particularly exposed; according to one small study, the average teenage girl uses 17 products daily, compared to 12 daily products for the average adult woman.[5] A 2019 study showed that personal care product use by teens was associated with higher levels of certain phthalates, parabens, and other phenols in their urine.[6] Adolescence may be a particularly critical window of exposure to endocrine disruptors as girls and boys are undergoing reproductive and pubertal development.

The $100 billion cosmetics industry should ensure that cosmetic products marketed to teens are made with safe ingredients. In the meantime, the good news is that by making informed choices on the products teens use, they can decrease their body burden of these concerning chemicals. One study of high school aged youth in California’s Salinas Valley found that after just 3 days of replacing their personal care products with low chemical alternatives, levels of four endocrine disrupting chemicals (phthalates, parabens, benzophenone 3 and triclosan) in their urine dropped by 25-45%.[7]

Products of Concern

  • Color cosmetics
  • Shampoo
  • Lipstick
  • Conditioner
  • Fragrance
  • Nail polish
  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen 

Chemicals of Concern

Quick Tips
(Click Image to download)

  1. Simplify your beauty routine by reducing the number of products you use.
  2. Avoid or reduce your use of products with the words “fragrance” or “parfum” on product labels. Buy from companies who fully disclose fragrance ingredients instead.
  3. Be careful with lipstick or mineral makeup since they may contain traces of heavy metals like lead.
  4. Read labels closely and find safer alternatives using tools like the Clearya and MadeSafe.

References

[1] Steingraber, S. (2007). The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What we Need to Know. San Francisco: Breast Cancer Fund.

[2] Aksglaede, L., Juul, A., Leffers, H., Skakkebaek, N., & Andersson, A. (2006). The sensitivity of the child to sex steroids: possible impact of exogenous estrogens. Hum Reprod Update, 12, 341–349.

[3] Steingraber, S. (2007). The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What we Need to Know. San Francisco: Breast Cancer Fund.

[4] Aksglaede, L., Juul, A., Leffers, H., Skakkebaek, N., & Andersson, A. (2006). The sensitivity of the child to sex steroids: possible impact of exogenous estrogens. Hum Reprod Update, 12, 341–349.

[5] Environmental Working Group. Teen Girls’ Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals: Environmental Working Group. 2008. Available from: https://www.ewg.org/research/teen-girls-body-burden-hormone-altering-cosmetics-chemicals

[6] Berger KP, Kogut KR, Bradman A, She J, Gavin Q, Zahedi R, Parra KL, Harley KG. Personal care product use as a predictor of urinary concentrations of certain phthalates, parabens, and phenols in the HERMOSA study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2019 Jan;29(1):21-32. doi: 10.1038/s41370-017-0003-z. Epub 2018 Jan 9. PMID: 29317738; PMCID: PMC6037613.

[7] See https://cerch.berkeley.edu/research-programs/hermosa-study

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