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Lipstick may cause breast cancer

US scientists say chemicals in lipsticks and nail polish might interfere with the healthy development of breast tissues leading to cancer.

health and fitness Updated: Dec 07, 2007 21:37 IST

Beware of using lipsticks! You might end up getting breast cancer, warn scientists in the US who say chemicals in lipsticks and nail varnish might interfere with the healthy development of breast tissues leading to cancer.

Before reaching the conclusion, scientists fed lactating rats with the chemical butyl benzyl phthalate or BBP found in lipstick and nail varnish, which was then absorbed by their offspring via breast milk.

The chemical altered the genetic make-up of cells in the young female rats' mammary glands, the organs that produce milk, reported the online edition of Daily Mail.

Although the effects wore off once BBP was removed from the diet, the subtle changes could have an effect later in life, the scientists say.

The manmade substance is a part of the phthalate family of chemicals widely used to soften plastics and are found in food packaging, toys, carpets and solvents. Past studies have linked them with birth defects, kidney problems and infertility.

"We are the first to report that neonatal/pre-pubertal exposure to BBP induced modifications in the gene expression of the mammary tissue," said team leader Jose Russo at the Fox Chase Cancer Centre in Philadelphia.

"BBP is in the environment, so a constant exposure via inhalation and digestive tract can reach many different organs, including the breast, the researchers reported in the online journal BMC Genomics.

"This is an indication that the same could happen in humans. Even if an individual is exposed to it in the beginning of life, BBP can cause alterations later in life."

"In this direction, we are evaluating if the exposure of this compound in young girls is associated with early puberty and breast development," Russo said.

The researchers, however, said more studies were needed to determine if the chemical did actually increase the risk of breast cancer in rats.