A UK campaign urging women to ‘ditch the junk’ in cosmetics to lower their risk of breast cancer has been condemned by the cosmetics industry.
Breast Cancer UK’s #Ditch the Junk campaign encourages women to reduce their exposure to chemicals “that may be linked to breast cancer” by avoiding “harmful chemicals” that it has listed in an info graphic designed to be shared online and via social media.
Launching the campaign, Breast Cancer UK, which was formed in 1999 to “move beyond breast cancer awareness to preventative action”, said “people can help reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals”.
“The ever expanding number of synthetic chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products is a concern. Some of these chemicals have been linked to adverse health effects including breast cancer.
“A recent study, led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, showed that it is possible to reduce our body burden of certain toxic chemicals ‒ in as little as three days, simply by avoiding products known to contain them.
“It’s time we took a precautionary approach and our #DitchTheJunk campaign is about taking simple steps to reduce the number and quantity of synthetic chemicals we use every day to help make our bodies healthier.”
However, the UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) has strongly denied the claims made by the charity.
In an official statement, the CTPA said it “categorically refutes any suggestions made by Breast Cancer UK that cosmetic products or their ingredients can be the cause of cancer”.
“It is wrong to suggest that an ingredient in a cosmetic product will either increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer and it is misleading – and a highly questionable practice – to encourage people into thinking this is the case.
“CTPA would [therefore] like to reassure the millions of people who safely use cosmetic and personal care products every day that this suggestion is entirely false. Such a misleading claim will cause unfounded and unnecessary alarm and worry for consumers, and especially for anyone suffering from breast cancer.”
Dr Emma Meredith, a pharmacist and director of science at the CTPA added: “Please let me provide the reassurance that if an ingredient as it is used in a cosmetic product could cause cancer it would, quite simply, be banned from use.
“I expect that the claims made by Breast Cancer UK will have caused alarm, so I want to stress that the allegations it makes regarding the possibility of harm coming from the ingredients in cosmetic products is simply not true, regardless of how many times these stories are repeated on the internet or through social media.
“Cosmetic products are one of the most studied and safest classes of consumer product on the market today so it is quite wrong for campaigns to frighten people like this. We can all have confidence in the safety of our cosmetic products because there are rigorous laws in place to assess and confirm their safety, which is why they are safely used daily by millions of people worldwide.”
CTPA director-general Dr Chris Flower, a toxicologist and chartered biologist, concluded there is “absolutely no evidence for the claims that Breast Cancer UK is making”.
“If there was any evidence to support their allegations, Breast Cancer UK would have a duty to bring it to the attention of the authorities for proper investigation and if ingredients were then found to be unsafe, they would be banned.
“Breast Cancer UK hasn’t done this because the evidence quite simply doesn’t exist”.”