Cosmetics could increase development of long-term condition endometriosis, study finds

Presence of endocrine disruptors, such as parabens, which block or mimic the action of hormones, present in some cosmetic products found to increase risk of endometriosis

The use of some cosmetic and beauty products could increase women’s risk of developing endometriosis, a long-term condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in areas such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes.

Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) and San Cecilio de Granada Teaching Hospital put products such as facemasks, lipsticks, face creams, nail polish, hair dyes, creams, hairspray and hair mousse on the watch list as a potential cause for the condition, which causes pain in the lower back and severe period pain.

While a definitive cause for developing the condition has not been pinpointed, scientists deduced that the presence of endocrine disruptors, such as parabens and benzophenones, is particularly concerning.

The investigation of 124 women, with and without endometriosis, looked at the levels of parabens and benzophenones and determined a clear link between greater use of various types of cosmetics, as mentioned above, and higher levels of these substances.

The team concluded that the presence of endocrine disruptors in cosmetics and beauty products ‘were related to the risk of endometriosis’.

Parabens are a range of chemicals that are commonly used in cosmetics as a preservative, with the most common being methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben, according to the FDA.

To date there has not been any guidance from regulators against the use of parabens in beauty products, however, the substance has been embroiled in a long drawn out argument as a potential cause of abnormal growth in breast cells, which could cause abnormal growth and lead to breast cancer.

Playing havoc with hormones

According to the team at UGR and San Cecilio de Granada Teaching Hospital, these chemicals are capable of blocking or mimicking the natural action of hormones and could be the cause of the increasing number of women diagnosed with endometriosis in recent years.

“Although the exact causes of this appearance are not known, a diverse range of factors are suspected of being involved, including genetic, epigenetic and environmental causes, with hormones appearing to play a key role,” said Olga Ocón, from the San Cecilio de Granada Teaching Hospital and UGR lecturer Francisco Artacho.

Figures from Endometriosis UK state that one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis, while 10% of women worldwide have been diagnosed with the condition.

Despite being the second most common gynecological condition in the UK, endometriosis is notoriously hard to detect, with women on average being diagnosed seven and a half years from the onset of symptoms.

Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis and is also difficult to treat.