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Cosmetics products have no link to breast cancer

1 June 2017

You may have read articles in the media reporting on a campaign called “Ditch the Junk” from the charity Breast Cancer UK.  Breast Cancer UK has suggested that cosmetic products contain ingredients linked to breast cancer.  CTPA would like to reassure the millions of people who safely use cosmetic and personal care products every day that this suggestion is entirely false.  Such a misleading claim will cause unfounded and unnecessary alarm and worry for consumers, and especially for anyone suffering from breast cancer.

CTPA categorically refutes any suggestions made by Breast Cancer UK that cosmetic products or their ingredients can be the cause of cancer.  It is wrong to suggest that an ingredient in a cosmetic product will either increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer and it is misleading – and a highly questionable practice – to encourage people into thinking this is the case. 

Dr Emma Meredith, a pharmacist and Director of Science at the CTPA says:

“Please let me provide the reassurance that if an ingredient as it is used in a cosmetic product could cause cancer it would, quite simply, be banned from use.  I expect that the claims made by Breast Cancer UK will have caused alarm, so I want to stress that the allegations it makes regarding the possibility of harm coming from the ingredients in cosmetic products is simply not true, regardless of how many times these stories are repeated on the internet or through social media.  As a scientist myself, I am disappointed that a campaign that purports to be based on scientific evidence has fallen short of finding out the actual facts about cosmetic ingredients, but rather has caused concern among those who are so unfortunate as to be suffering from breast cancer. 

“Cosmetic products are one of the most studied and safest classes of consumer product on the market today so it is quite wrong for campaigns to frighten people like this. We can all have confidence in the safety of our cosmetic products because there are rigorous laws in place to assess and confirm their safety, which is why they are safely used daily by millions of people worldwide.”

To help dispel the myths and misinformation about cosmetic products that can circulate and cause unnecessary alarm and worry, CTPA has created a booklet that provides facts and information.

Dr Chris Flower, a toxicologist and Chartered Biologist and Director-General of CTPA, said:

“There is absolutely no evidence for the claims that Breast Cancer UK is making. If there was any evidence to support their allegations, Breast Cancer UK would have a duty to bring it to the attention of the authorities for proper investigation and if ingredients were then found to be unsafe, they would be banned. Breast Cancer UK hasn’t done this because the evidence quite simply doesn’t exist.

“CTPA has already written to Breast Cancer UK on two occasions to explain why the claims made in their materials are inaccurate and misleading, and to specify the strict safety laws covering all cosmetic products and their ingredients. Despite having been provided with the facts, Breast Cancer UK continues to mislead people in a manner that is frankly irresponsible. We hope Breast Cancer UK will stop causing undue concern, especially among those who may be at a vulnerable and difficult time in their lives. There are robust EU laws in place requiring cosmetic products to be safe and these are enforced across the EU by regulatory authorities who co-operate with one another to share information and findings. To suggest that cosmetics may increase risk of harm because of the ingredients they contain is wrong.”

Read further facts about:


What do other cancer and scientific experts say?

Cancer Research UK which highlights a number of myths and ‘cancer controversies’ surrounding the safety of cosmetic products and explains why there is no good scientific evidence to believe that any of these products could cause cancer. 

Breast Cancer Now website

NHS Choices ‘Behind the Headlines’ regularly puts into context scary media reporting of new research and campaigns on the NHS Choices website.  In particular, in December last year, Dr Alicia White placed an article on how to read articles about health, which applies equally to campaigns by pressure groups with their own agenda, where she highlighted the need to check for the scientific evidence. 

NHS Choices ‘Behind the Headlines’ review of a Daily Mail article about the risk from ‘everyday chemicals’ noting that it is important to put the risk in context.

Sense About Science urges people to ‘Ask for the Evidence’ before believing claims and scare-tactics designed to create a media storm.