Many cosmetics, antiperspirants, sunscreens, shampoos and personal lubricants today contain parabens. These are preservatives that protect the products from molds, bacteria and fungi contamination, extending the shelf-life.
Concern over parabens rose when researchers discovered they produce estrogen-like properties that mimic the natural female hormones that may cause cancer of the reproductive organs to grow.
While the jury is still out on parabens, there seems to be two camps forming. One camp thinks that low doses of parabens, such as those found in cosmetic products, pose no serious risk, even if used long term. The other believes that any evidence that a substance may be linked to cancer, regardless of the dose, should be cause enough for it to be banned from use.
Most scientists and regulatory agencies fall in the first camp, but several cosmetic companies have now voluntarily stopped using parabens in their products. If you want to go paraben-free, look for products without parabens which start with the words methyl, ethyl, propyl or butyl.
5. Night-Shift Work
There is mounting evidence that if you work the night shift, you are also raising your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer. Several studies have found long-term night-shift workers (30 year or more) have higher rates of cancer, but researchers still don’t know why.
One theory involves exposure to light. Such exposure is known to reduce the production of melatonin. So night-shift workers going from a day environment to an artificial light environment at night would have lower levels of this hormone.
Another theory is that night work interrupts the natural circadian cycle, the body’s molecular clock that regulates sleep, metabolism, the immune system, temperature and other physiological and biochemical processes. This also lowers melatonin production.
Researchers say the melatonin-sleep-cancer link is far more complicated than once thought. It may not be when you sleep or how long, but rather how well you sleep that matters most.
Also, certain races tend to have higher natural melatonin levels than others, so genetics may be a significant factor. The one thing researchers do agree on is that getting enough restful sleep is critical to good health.
“A third of us are sleeping less than 6 hours a night, 1½ hours less than we were 100 years ago. But human sleep needs haven’t changed in that time,” says Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center.
6. Gel Manicures
Who doesn’t love a nail polish that lasts? In recent years, gel manicures have gained a loyal following precisely for that reason, but concern over the UV light used to cure the polish has raised concern.
A pair of studies has suggested that the lights may be to blame for skin cancer developing on the backs of some patrons’ hands, but more studies are needed.
Some experts say the cancer risk for someone getting a gel manicure once in a while is small. But they also warn that the UV light is harmful to unprotected eyes and will speed up photoaging on the hands. In other words, your nails look fantastic, but your hands will eventually look like baseball gloves.