A chemical compound which is present in many cosmetic products, pharmaceuticals and food items has been strongly linked to breast cancer.
Parabens, a type of chemical preservative, was present in breast cancer tissue taken from 40 women during a study.
The chemical is often used in underarm deodorants, face creams, hair care products, make up and the Pill and is also present in processed food such as sausages and pies.
Health experts are now calling for more research to be carried out to explore the findings further.
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A group of scientists from the University of Reading carried out the research, trying to identify links between parabens and breast cancer.
They analysed samples of breast cancer from 40 women who underwent a mastectomy between 2005 and 2008 and discovered that all of them tested positive for at least one paraben.
Four samples were taken from each woman and 99 percent contained one paraben, while 60 percent contained at least five.
Although parabens have long been suspected as a contributing cause of breast cancer, this is the first time a link has been found.
The theory is that parabens act in a similar way to the hormone oestrogen, which is known to be a key factor in the development and growth of breast cancer.
A vast proportion of breast cancers are also located in or near to the armpit, where deodorants and antiperspirants are commonly used.
However, the majority of the women involved in the study said they did not use deodorant or similar cosmetic products.
The researchers therefore believe the parabens are able to enter the body in a number of different ways.
Commenting on the findings, one of the study’s co-authors, Mr Lester Barr, said: “Our study appears to confirm the view that there is no simple cause and effect relationship between parabens in underarm products and breast cancer.
“The intriguing discovery that parabens are present even in women who have never used underarm products raises the question: where have these chemicals come from?”
Meanwhile the leader of the study, Dr Philippa Darbre, added: “The fact that parabens were detected in the majority of the breast tissue samples cannot be taken to imply that they actually caused breast cancer in the 40 women studied.
“However, the fact that parabens were present in so many of the breast tissue samples does justify further investigation,” she said.
The results have been published the Journal of Applied Toxicology.
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