Tag Archives: cancer


“Don’t put that junk on your junk”

I recently said this to my favorite cyclist when discussing that he may not want to apply chamois cream containing parabens (the junk) to his junk. Male cyclists are repeatedly applying (maybe daily, for 5-7 hours at a time) these paraben containing creams to their reproductive parts. Research is showing that maybe they should reconsider.


You may see parabens listed as “methylparaben” “propylparaben” or “butylparaben” Etc.  Don’t let that fool you; these compounds are all structurally and functionally similar compounds, each just has an additional carbon group – the methyl, propyl, or butyl.


Parabens’ alias is alkyl hydroxy benzoate, not as easily recognizable, but still present on food and cosmetic labels. You can find these parabens in hair products, skin care products, or even your salad dressing! For male cyclists, they are in most creams that are applied to the groin area to alleviate chafing against the saddle of the bike.


Studies have shown that parabens can mimic the female sex hormone estrogen (Gomez et al 2005) and in turn can act as endocrine disruptors, inhibiting “testosterone (T)-induced transcriptional activity” (Chen et al 2007). Also, “exposure of post-weaning mammals to butyl paraben adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.” Similar effects can be seen with propyl paraben (Oishi 2002).


What are other potential effects of this chemical on males? Recent research has shown parabens in association with  breast cancer, though causality has not yet been established (Khanna et al 2012).  This may seem irrelevant for men unless one considers the fact that breast cancer among men is actually on the rise.


Additionally, these chemicals may reduce male fertility. Butylparaben was shown in the lab to have an adverse effect on the male mouse reproductive system in that it damaged the late steps of spermatogenesis in the testis (Oishi 2002). Similar effects can be seen for other forms of parabens. They are also suspected of affecting the mitochondria in rat testes, reducing virility (Tavares et al 2008).


Male cyclists might want to look for anti-chafe chamois creams that do not contain parabens, such as creams containing lanolin, the oil in sheep’s wool. You can even make lanolin cream in your own home, following this recipe (but make sure the lanolin you use is high quality and pesticide free).


Alternatively, one can pay closer attention to the label on chamois cream to ensure that it does not contain parabens.


If you are a cyclist, know a cyclist, or love a cyclist, please share this with them.


By: Mana Sassanpour



1. Antiandrogenic properties of parabens and other phenolic containing small molecules in personal care products. J. Chen, K.C. Ahn, N.A. Gee, S.J. Gee, B.D. Hammock, B.L. Lasley. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Volume 221, Issue 3, 278–284, 2007.


2. Effects of propyl paraben on the male reproductive system. S. Oishi. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 40, Issue 12, 1807 – 1815, 2002.


3. Estrogenic activity of cosmetic components in reporter cell lines: parabens, UV screens, and musks. E. Gomez, A. Pillon, H. Fenet, D. Rosain, M. J. Duchesne, J. C. Nicolas, P. Balaguer, C. Casellas. 
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 
Vol. 68, Iss. 4, 2005.


4. Male breast carcinoma: increased awareness needed. J. White, O. Kearins, D. Dodwell, K. Horgan, A.M. Hanby, V. Speirs. Breast Cancer Research. Volume 13, Issue 5, 219, 2011.


5. Organ toxicity and mechanisms: effects of butyl paraben on the male reproductive system in mice. S. Oishi. Archives of Toxicology. Volume 76, Number 7, 423-429, 2002.


6. Parabens enable suspension growth of MCF-10A immortalized, non-transformed human breast epithelial cells. S Khanna and P.D. Darbre. Journal of Applied Toxicology. doi: 10.1002/jat.2753, 2012.


7. Parabens in male infertility—Is there a mitochondrial connection? R.S. Tavares, F.C. Martins, P.J. Oliveira, J. Ramalho-Santosa, F.P. Peixoto. Reproductive Toxicology. Volume 27, Issue 1, 1-7, 2009.



On Wednesday November 9, 2011 UVA Green Chemistry hosted AGC’s Mana Sassanpour for a lecture and discussion on “What is Green Chemistry?”

Mana gave an overview of green chemistry, Paul Anastas and John Warner’s 12 principles of green chemistry, followed by a description of Advancing Green Chemistry’s involvement in the field.

Mana: “The discussion that followed after the lecture was phenomenal! Almost everyone who attended the lecture asked a question. I had never seen such an involved group of students!”

We started off discussing endocrine disrupting chemicals, for example: bisphenol A (BPA). What exposure level is safe? Really large amounts are harmful, but so are really tiny amounts  – the correlation is not linear. We proceeded to discuss how we could test compounds for toxicity if the correlation is not linear. This led to a discussion on general methods for testing for toxicity, what the current standards are and how we could do better. We discussed the ethical concerns around animal testing and other tools.

The students were curious to find out what some of the common sources of BPA exposure are, and were surprised to find out that it is found in many disposable water bottles and plastic containers. A concerned student then asked for advice on how to avoid BPA. The response was: don’t use plastic food containers – but if you do, definitely do not microwave food in them because that allows the BPA and other contaminants to leach into your food. Store food in glass jars instead.

The ladies in the crowd then opened a discussion on cosmetics. Like many, they had never considered the chemicals in their beauty products. We talked about how many chapsticks and lip balms have oxybenzone in them – a component that acts as a sunscreen but is also a carcinogen. Most girls in the room immediately reached for their chapsticks to look at ingredients. A hand darted up to ask me “My chapstick has 6% oxybenzone – should I throw it away?” From this topic we went on to discuss how many sunscreen components do not degrade and go into our rivers and affect the reproductive anatomy of frogs and fish. This then led to how effects on amphibians predict effects on humans.

Needless to say, the conversation was great – filled with great facts, questions, and laughs!

Data mining predicts chemical-gene-cancer associations.

Patel, CJ and AJ Butte. 2010. Predicting environmental chemical factors associated with disease-related gene expression data. BMC Medical Genomics http:dx.doi.org/10.1186/1755-8794-3-17.

Synopsis by Thea Edwards

A mix of data gathered from two large databases is one of the next steps in understanding how the environment interacts with genes to influence disease, according to two Stanford scientists who are trying to untangle the interrelated effects. The pair analyzed information that was collected through new analytical methods – such as gene arrays – to better understand and predict environment-gene-disease patterns.

This so-called data-mining approach is a useful and cost-effective way to identify interactions among hundreds of chemicals and thousands of genetic measurements associated with a disease. The associations can then be targeted for more efficient and specific experimental tests or epidemiological studies.

Many diseases – including cancer – result from interactions between a person’s genes and the environment. Environmental factors – such as contaminants, temperature, food and others – can alter the way some genes function. That is, if and when they turn on or off and the kind and quantity of proteins they make. The changes to gene function can influence a cell’s chemical signals and lead to disease.

But, laboratory and human studies designed to understand the connections are time consuming and expensive. An alternative is to tap into the vast amount of stored genetic information that has been collected through faster and cheaper laboratory methods – such as gene arrays – and stored in large computer databases.

In this study, the researchers relied on two public databases. One tracks which chemicals influence which genes – known as a chemical/gene signature. It also has information about the next step: which genes can influence disease.  The other database has information on what proteins or products the genes make that may be associated with disease – called gene expression patterns. The researchers integrated information from the two databases, relating the chemical-gene signatures for 1,338 chemicals to the changes in gene expression that are associated with certain diseases.

The researchers specifically report on the environmental chemicals related to prostate, lung and breast cancers. They chose these three common cancers because much is already known about which chemicals and genes interact to influence them. By identifying these known interactions, they verified that the computer methods they developed work to predict environmental factors associated with disease.

They found that breast and prostate cancers were associated with estrogenic chemicals, including estradiol (the main form of estrogen in humans), genistein (a plant phytoestrogen found in soy) and bisphenol A (a synthetic estrogen used to make polycarbonate plastics).

Lung cancer was associated with exposure to sodium arsenite (an arsenic-containing mutagen), vanadium pentoxide (used to manufacture polyester, PVC plastics and newer vanadium-based batteries) and dimethylnitrosamine (found in tobacco smoke and a carcinogenic byproduct created during chlorination of wastewater).

These findings are consistent with other experimental and epidemiological studies. The results indicate that data-mining is a valid and cost-effective way to direct future experimental or epidemiological research that will investigate the specifics of how environmental factors affect disease.

The authors note that their approach shows association – that one is related to the other – and does not predict the direction of the association. Therefore, they cannot tell from their findings if the chemicals cause or prevent the disease.

Originally published in Environmental Health News, Sep 09, 2010

Cancer and green chemistry.

The Boston Globe

Cancer and green chemistry

By Teresa Heinz Kerry, Terry Collins and John Warner July 10, 2010

THE PRESIDENT’S Cancer Panel recently issued a stunning report on the role of environmental factors in causing cancer. For those wondering why America has yet to win the war against cancer, the panel minces no words: “The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.’’ If you ignore the cause, how can you prevent cancer and really win the war?

The panel urges strong actions to reduce people’s widespread exposures to carcinogens. It says the prevailing regulatory approach used in the United States is “reactionary, not preventive.’’ It concludes that US regulation of cancer-causing chemicals is ineffective for several reasons, including inadequate funding, weak laws, and undue industry influence.

This report is not the result of a liberal panel following the lead of the Obama administration. Both panel members were appointed by President George W. Bush and the panel’s public hearings were conducted before Bush left office.The report identifies a series of actions that can be taken to win the war against cancer.

First, it recommends that a prevention-oriented approach should replace the current reactionary system, and that this should become the cornerstone of a new national cancer prevention strategy.

It finds that government agencies responsible for protecting Americans from cancer need more tools, and that a more integrated and transparent system — one driven by science and free from political or industry influence — must be developed to protect public health.

Among its many recommendations, we were especially encouraged to find this: “ ‘Green chemistry’ initiatives and research . . . should be pursued and supported more aggressively. . .’’ Green chemistry offers a path forward that leads both to a healthier America and a wave of positive chemical innovations that can strengthen our economy.

World markets want safe materials. Green chemistry will be able to provide them, but only if it gets the resources it needs to flourish. Other countries, including Germany, India, and, China, are investing far more in green chemistry than the United States does. As demand grows for safer materials because of the compelling science that show how chemicals in wide use today are undermining our health, America’s chemical industry needs to become the leader.

What’s holding us back? Lack of financial support for green chemistry research and innovation. But just turning on the funding spigot won’t be enough. We also need to reinvent how chemistry is taught in US colleges and universities.

Green chemistry equips chemists with the knowledge to ask tough questions about potential hazards when they are thinking about making a new chemical. As they make choices early in new chemical design, this simple step could dramatically reduce the chances that new chemicals would be toxic.

In the past, chemists have rarely been trained to ask these questions. It’s as if a course in driver’s education never taught students about traffic accidents. Perhaps not surprisingly, students as well as potential employers are creating demand for this change.

Green chemistry has a long way to go to develop a full toolkit of chemical methods that can replace more classic approaches. But the path is clear, a “prevention-oriented’’ design strategy that can do honor to the President’s Cancer Panel’s insistence that “new products must be well-studied prior to and following their introduction into the environment. . .’’

Invigorating green chemistry is a win-win solution. Americans will become healthier because the materials in their homes, the air, and water will be safe by design, and the chemical industry will be better positioned to compete in world markets that care about chemical safety.

Teresa Heinz Kerry is chairman of the Heinz Family Philanthropies. Terry Collins is a professor of green chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. John Warner is president of the Warner-Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

President’s Cancer Panel Report (National Cancer Institute) links environmental toxics to cancer; strongly endorses Green Chemistry

President’s Cancer Panel: Environmentally caused cancers are ‘grossly underestimated’ and ‘needlessly devastate American lives.’

“The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated,” says the President’s Cancer Panel in a strongly reported report that urges action to reduce people’s widespread exposure to carcinogens. The panel today advised President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

Chemicals and contaminants might trigger cancer by various means.

By Marla Cone
Editor in Chief
Environmental Health News
May 6, 2010

The President’s Cancer Panel on Thursday reported that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated” and strongly urged action to reduce people’s widespread exposure to carcinogens.

The panel advised President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

The 240-page report by the President’s Cancer Panel is the first to focus on environmental causes of cancer. The panel, created by an act of Congress in 1971, is charged with monitoring the multi-billion-dollar National Cancer Program and reports directly to the President every year.

Environmental exposures “do not represent a new front in the ongoing war on cancer. However, the grievous harm from this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program,” the panel said in its letter to Obama that precedes the report. “The American people even before they are born are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.”

The panel, appointed by President Bush, told President Obama that the federal government is missing the chance to protect people from cancer by reducing their exposure to carcinogens. In its letter, the panel singled out bisphenol A, a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic and can linings that is unregulated in the United States, as well as radon, formaldehyde and benzene.

“The increasing number of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compels us to action, even though we may currently lack irrefutable proof of harm.” – Dr. LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr., chair of the President’s Cancer PanelEnvironmental health scientists were pleased by the findings, saying it embraces everything that they have been saying for years.

Richard Clapp, a professor of environmental health at Boston University’s School of Public Health and one of the nation’s leading cancer epidemiologists, called the report “a call to action.”

Environmental and occupational exposures contribute to “tens of thousands of cancer cases a year,” Clapp said. “If we had any calamity that produced tens of thousands of deaths or serious diseases, that’s a national emergency in my view.”

The two-member panel Dr. LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr., a professor of surgery at Howard University and Margaret Kripke, a professor at University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center – was appointed by President Bush to three-year terms.

Lefall and Kripke concluded that action is necessary, even though in many cases there is scientific uncertainty about whether certain chemicals cause cancer. That philosophy, called the precautionary principle, is highly controversial among scientists, regulators and industry.

“The increasing number of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compels us to action, even though we may currently lack irrefutable proof of harm,” Lefall, who is chair of the panel, said in a statement.

The two panelists met with nearly 50 medical experts in late 2008 and early 2009 before writing their report to the president. Cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong previously served on the panel, but did not work on this year’s report.

In 2007, 69 million CT scans were performed.

The report recommends raising consumer awareness of the risks posed by chemicals in food, air, water and consumer products, bolstering research of the health effects and tightening regulation of chemicals that might cause cancer or other diseases.

They also urged doctors to use caution in prescribing CT scans and other medical imaging tests that expose patients to large amounts of radiation.  In 2007, 69 million CT scans were performed, compared with 18 million in 1993. Patients who have a chest CT scan receive a dose of radiation in the same range as survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attacks who were less than half a mile from ground zero, the report says.

The panel also criticized the U.S. military, saying that “it is a major source of toxic occupational and environmental exposures that can increase cancer risk.” Examples cited include Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where carcinogenic solvents contaminate drinking water, and Vietnam veterans with increased lymphomas, prostate cancer and other cancers from thier exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

Overall cancer rates and deaths have declined in the United States. Nevertheless, about 41 percent of all Americans still will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, and about 21 percent will die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER Cancer Statistics Review. In 2009 alone, about 1.5 million new cases were diagnosed.

For the past 30 years, federal agencies and institutes have estimated that environmental pollutants cause about 2 percent of all cancers and that occupational exposures may cause 4 percent.
Patients who have a chest CT scan receive a dose of radiation in the same range as survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attacks who were less than half a mile from ground zero. But the panel called those estimates “woefully out of date.” The panel criticized regulators for using them to set environmental regulations and lambasted the chemical industry for using them “to justify its claims that specific products pose little or no cancer risk.”
The report said the outdated estimates fail to take into account many newer discoveries about people’s vulnerability to chemicals. Many chemicals interact with each other, intensifying the effect, and some people have a genetic makeup or early life exposure that makes them susceptible to environmental contaminants.
“It is not known exactly what percentage of all cancers either are initiated or promoted by an environmental trigger,” the panel said in its report. “Some exposures to an environmental hazard occur as a single acute episode, but most often, individual or multiple harmful exposures take place over a period of weeks, months, year, or a lifetime.”
Boston University’s Clapp was one of the experts who spoke to the panel in 2008. “We know enough now to act in ways that we have not done…Act on what we know,” he told them.
“There are lots of places where we can move forward here. Lots of things we can act on now,” such as military base cleanups and reducing use of CT scans, Clapp said in an interview.
Dr. Ted Schettler, director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, called the report an “integrated and comprehensive critique.” He was glad that the panel underscored that regulatory agencies should reduce exposures even when absolute proof of harm was unavailable.
Scientists are divided on whether there is a link between cell phones and cancer.
Also, “they recognized that exposures happen in mixtures, not in isolation” and that children are most vulnerable.
“Some people are disproportionately exposed and disproportionately vulnerable,” said Schettler, whose group was founded by environmental groups to urge the use of science to address public health issues related to the environment.
Schettler said it “took courage” for the panel to warn physicians about the cancer risk posed by CT scans, particularly for young children.

“It’s almost become routine for kids with abdominal pain to get a CT scan” to check for appendicitis, he said. Although the scans may lead to fewer unnecessary surgeries, doctors should consider the high doses of radiation. “I’m very glad this panel took that on,” Schettler said.

Another sensitive issue raised in the report was the risk of brain cancer from cell phones. Scientists are divided on whether there is a link.

Until more research is conducted, the panel recommended that people reduce their usage by making fewer and shorter calls, using hands-free devices so that the phone is not against the head and refraining from keeping a phone on a belt or in a pocket.

Even if cell phones raise the risk of cancer slightly, so many people are exposed that “it could be a large public health burden,” Schettler said.

The panel listed a variety of carcinogenic compounds that many people routinely encounter. Included are benzene and other petroleum-based pollutants in vehicle exhaust, arsenic in water supplies, chromium from plating companies, formaldehyde in kitchen cabinets and other plywood, bisphenol A in plastics and canned foods, tetrachloroethylene at dry cleaners, PCBs in fish and other foods and various pesticides.

Chemicals and contaminants might trigger cancer by a variety of means. They can damage DNA, disrupt hormones, inflame tissues, or turn genes on or off.

“Some types of cancer are increasing rapidly,” Clapp said, including thyroid, kidney and liver cancers. Others, including lung and breast cancer, have declined.

Previous reports by the President’s Cancer Panel have focused largely on treatment and more well-known causes of cancer such as diet or smoking.
The panel criticized regulators and industry for using “woefully outdated” estimates of environmentally caused cancers to set regulations and “to justify its claims that specific products pose little or no cancer risk.”Some experts are concerned that the report might just sit on a shelf at the White House. But Clapp said the findings are so strongly stated that he is confident the report will be useful to some policymakers, legislators and groups that want tougher occupational health standards or other regulations.
“We’re not going to get any better than this,” Clapp said. “This goes farther than what I thought the President’s Cancer Panel would go. I’m pleased that they went as far as they did.”
Environmental health scientists said they hope the report raises not just the President’s awareness of environmental threats, but the public’s, since most people are unaware of the dangers.
“This report has stature,” Schettler said. “It is a report that goes directly to the president.”
PDF of the original report.