You may have noticed that your latest bottle of shampoo says “phthalate-free” and wondered what the heck phthalates are and why you should care.
What Are Phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics more flexible or resilient and also as solvents. Leading one to ask “Why would they put that in a bottle of shampoo anyway?” Good question, wondering that myself.
Phthalates are found in just about everyplace in modern society – food packaging, hoses, toys, shower curtains, rain coats, vinyl flooring, lubricants, wall coverings, detergents, adhesives, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo. The problem with them is that they have been found to be hormone disruptors. Not good!
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, several phthalate compounds have been shown to cause reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer.
The Environmental Working Group has focused on phthalates since 1998, when EWG reported that dibutyl phthalate (found in 37 nail polishes) was also present in the body of every single American tested. In 2000, an EWG analysis of CDC data found that dibutyl phthalate was present in every single person tested for industrial pollutants. We are fortunate to have the EWG looking out for us. Since the EWG and other health groups have gotten involved, the U.S. Congress has passed legislation banning six phthalates from children’s toys and cosmetics.
The problem is they’re still out there. Not everyone has conformed to the legislation.
How to Avoid Phthalates
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – READ THE INGREDIENTS on everything you buy. Sadly, it’s not easy to know when phthalates are being used as you’ll rarely find the word “phthalates” on a label (except for the occasional “phthalate-free,” which is helpful). Here’s what you’re looking for:
DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP(diethyl phthalate), often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
DEHP(di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
BzBP(benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
DMP(dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant).
Be wary of anything that says simply “fragrance” – often used to denote a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates, which are a subject of recent concern because of studies showing they can mimic certain hormones.
Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.
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It’s every woman’s secret fear – finding a breast lump.
The first important thing to do is DON’T PANIC. Studies have shown that 80% of all breast lumps are harmless.
There are many things that can cause a breast lump
Cysts – fluid-filled sacs that can feel like over-ripe grapes. A cyst can sometimes be tender, especially just before your menstrual period.
Fibrocystic changes – lumps that are often painful. Contrary to popular belief, fibrocystic breast changes do not increase your risk of breast cancer. You might find that symptoms are usually worse right before your menstrual period, and then improve after your period starts.
Fibroadenomas – noncancerous lumps that feel rubbery and move easily inside the breast tissue. Like fibrocystic changes, they occur most often during your reproductive years. They are usually not tender and except in rare cases, they do not become cancerous. A doctor can tell during an exam whether a lump is a fibroadenoma. Some doctors will still recommend a lump biopsy just to be sure.
Lipoma – a collection of fatty tissue, a lipoma moves easily with very little finger pressure. Sometimes they are tender to the touch but are usually not associated with any other symptoms. Lipomas rarely become malignant.
Milk cysts – sacs filled with milk and infections (known as mastitis), which may turn into an abscess. These typically only occur if you are breastfeeding or have recently given birth. They are painful!
Other causes of breast lumps
There are other conditions which can cause breast lumps:
Injury — sometimes if your breast is badly bruised, there will be a collection of blood that feels like a lump. These lumps tend to heal themselves in a few days or weeks but if they do not improve, see your doctor.
Breast cancer — if you suspect this, see your doctor
Other breast changes to look for
Bruising on your breast, but you did not experience any injury;
Any discharge from your nipple, especially if it is bloody or pinkish
The skin on your breast appears dimpled or wrinkled, like the peel of an orange
A new breast lump during your monthly self-exam
Your nipple is inverted (turned inward) but normally is not inverted
Do this first!
Make a call to your primary care doctor and go get it checked out. Don’t delay, because if it is breast cancer, the earlier you find it and get treatment, the better your chances for survival.
Your doctor will most likely order an ultrasound exam; it’s a painless, radiation-free way of determining if the lump is a mass or a harmless, fluid-filled cyst. You might also have a core needle biopsy where, with the assistance of the ultrasound equipment, they insert a very slender needle into the breast (it’s not as bad as it sounds) and suck out a small sampling of cells which they test for cancer.
In the event that the lump can’t be seen during your ultrasound exam (which apparently does happen about a third of the time) a similar procedure known as a “stereotactic needle biopsy” uses a mammogram to guide the procedure. They use the mammography equipment when they insert the needle and then scan the breast to ensure accuracy.
I know all this sounds very scary, but go and get yourself checked anyway. If it turns out to be nothing, at least you’ll know and NO ONE will think you are over-reacting.
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The only thing that concerns me in the video is the advice to start getting screening mammograms at the age of 40. There are many problems associated with mammograms and Dr Joseph Mercola (among others) has written an excellent article about that.
One of the main problems with mammograms is that they employ ionizing radiation at a relatively high dose, which in and of itself can contribute to the development of breast cancer. Mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray. This is not acceptable!
A second problem with mammogram screening is that it also compresses your breasts tightly, and if there are any cancer cells present, could also lead to a dangerous spread of those cells.
The third problem with mammography is its unacceptably high rate of false positives. Read Dr Mercola’s article for more information on this – really important for you to know.
Thermal Imaging – A Much Better Solution
Dr Mercola and I agree that thermal imaging is a much better screening device. When I lived in Australia, I went yearly to a Thermal Imaging Center and really loved the experience. No squish! No pain! No radiation!
Thermography measures the infrared heat radiating from your body. It can detect signs of breast cancer without the use of dangerous radiation or mechanical pressure. Thermography can provide a picture of the early stages of angiogenesis — the formation of the blood vessels that feed a tumor.
See my page titled What is Thermography for more information. I highly recommend you do an Internet search – put in your city name and “thermal breast imaging” to find a center near you. Sometimes insurance pays for this – contact the thermal imaging center for more information.
The bottom line is this. The medical establishment is going to continue to push mammography on us – despite its obvious safety issues – unless we, the empowered patients, insist on doing something different.
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Every single day I seem to come across another article or bit of research that reinforces the fact that YOUR BREAST HEALTH MAY DEPEND ON YOU READING THE INGREDIENTS ON YOUR DEODORANT LABEL!
I don’t know what the heck is wrong with our cosmetics industry but they insist on creating products that are NOT safe for us to use!
More Research on Parabens
A new article by the Journal of Applied Toxicology discusses research reporting “residues of five paraben esters in the human breast, at concentrations up to the microgram per gram tissue range and with highest concentrations in the axilla area (closest to the underarm).”
Apparently the researchers were trying to discover the method of entry for these preservative chemicals and thought that since they were at highest concentration in the axilla (arm pit) that deodorant was to blame. The article mentions, though, that “seven subjects reportedly never used underarm cosmetics, and other exposure sources, including other cosmetic product types” were discussed.
It’s not just deodorant, sadly. Parabens are in just about every body product – just go to the grocery store and read the ingredient labels – look for propylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, etc.
We have to be proactive and stop assuming that just because a product is on a grocery store shelf, it’s safe for us to use. That is just NOT the case.
They are creating health problems for us, people! We have to stand up to the cosmetics industry and vote with our pocketbooks. Declining sales is the ONLY thing they understand!
If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.
That’s a great question! So can you get breast cancer from an underwire bra?
What about this one: Can breast implants increase your breast cancer risk?
How about: Can my daily cup of java increase my risk of breast cancer?
Good questions, all. A great on-line article in Health.com entitled “25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted” will answer all of the above questions for you, as well as 22 more.
While I agreed with most of them, I had to take exception to slide #7 about using underarm deodorant and increased breast cancer risk.
The article stated: “One small study did stumble on traces of parabens in a tiny sample of breast cancer tumors. Parabens, used as preservatives in some antiperspirants, have weak estrogen-like properties, but the study in question made no cause-and-effect connection between parabens and breast cancer, nor did it conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.”
I believe that enough of a question has been raised about the safety of parabens for our body products – quite clearly we’re getting them from somewhere, so why don’t companies like Proctor & Gamble just take them out? Because nobody makes them. See yesterday’s rant on the cosmetics industry and watch the attached video.
Why should we even take that chance when it’s so easily avoided?
Anyway – the Health.com article was a good one for the most part, check it out. It answers lots of those myths we’ve heard and wondered about.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). When you’re in a desperate situation, you need an ally. You can depend on me to help you through this.
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