Triclosan: Does This Antimicrobial (In some Soaps and Toothpastes) Spur Breast Cancer Growth?

liquid soap

What You Need to Know: Don’t panic just yet (unless you are a mouse who uses certain soaps and toothpastes), as the research is only in lab dishes and mice. Still, some manufacturers are turning away from using tricolsan as an antimicrobial ingredient in soaps, toothpastes, and other products. New evidence suggests that tricosan and octylphenol promote the growth of human breast cancer cells in lab dishes and breast cancer tumors in mice.

Background: Hormonal imbalances seem o play a role in the development of some breast cancers. In this context, researchers are investigating whether endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – which are compounds that act like hormones – might spur breast cancer growth. Research has found that two EDCs (triclosan, an antimicrobial ingredient in many products, including soaps, cosmetics, and cutting boards; and octylphenol, which is in some paints, pesticides, and plastics) have accumulated in the environment. Triclosan has been reported to be in the urine of 75 percent of Americans.

The Evidence: Kyung-Chul Choi’s team found that both agents interfered with genes involved with breast cancer cell growth resulting in more cancer cells. Mice exposed to these compounds had larger and denser breast tumors, compared to controls.

My Take: This research proves little, at least with respect to breast cancer among living humans. Still, the laboratory and mice data are consistent with the view that endocrine disruptors may be linked to breast cancer. Might be reasonable to avoid these compounds, even if we do not have high level evidence to do so. In addition, I typically recommend potential risk-reducing maneuvers such as: Exercise (such as 30 minutes, 5 days per week), for example  a brisk walk. Watch the weight, don’t drink too much alcohol (might be wise to have no more than one standard drink of alcohol daily, and keep moving. I’m Dr Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Mia M. Gaudet, Brian D. Carter, Alpa V. Patel, Lauren R. Teras, Eric J. Jacobs, Susan M. Gapstur. Waist circumference, body mass index, and postmenopausal breast cancer incidence in the Cancer Prevention Study-II Nutrition Cohort. Cancer Causes & Control, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10552-014-0376-4





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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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