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From Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, MD, Cancer Prevention Coalition 

Cosmetics- September, 2002

Let us talk about cosmetics. The cosmetics industry is in a state of regulatory anarchy. Cosmetics are laden with a plethora of unlabeled carcinogens. Let me give you a few examples.

Hair dyes contain phenylenediamines and various coloring agents, which are proven carcinogens, documented to relate to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and multiple myeloma. Lotions and creams contain diethanolamine and triethanolamine. These react with nitrites added as preservatives or as contaminants to produce nitrosamines which are extremely potent carcinogens.

In the average cosmetic or cream, you find highly potent carcinogens. In others, you find agents which release formaldehyde (from polyethylene glycol, bronopal, quaternium 15). Several of them contain dioxane. Others contain artificial colors, including arsenic and lead. The use of talc has been shown to be related to ovarian cancer. However, the ACS "Facts and Figures" mentions nothing about this.

The average farmer uses one and a half to two pounds of pesticides per acre. Home lawns take ten pounds per acre. Golf courses take fifteen pounds per acre. Up to thirty different pesticides are used, ten of which have been shown to be carcinogenic: such as 2-4-D, related to lymphomas; Atrazine related to ovarian cancer; DDT related to pancreatic cancer. Golf course superintendents have excesses of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, brain cancer, prostate and lung cancer. Dogs living where lawns are repeatedly treated have a five fold excess of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Children also get lymphomas and leukemia and these are in excess in children living in houses where lawns are repeatedly doused with pesticides.

Clothing is dry-cleaned with perchlorethylene (or tetrachlorethylene). When you put it in a cedar closet, the levels of perchlorethylene in that closet become greater than that permitted to a trained worker with protective gear.

Many domestic aerosols have as the propellant dichlormethane, a carcinogenic chemical related to breast cancer. Furniture polishes contain formaldehyde. Cat litter contains crystalline silica, another potent carcinogen.


Xeronol is a nonsteroidal estrogenic compound. It is broken down to xerolenone, a carcinogen. The levels are very high in meats, fantastically high. The hormones are implanted in cattle ears, one allowed per cow. However, to save money and get the cow to market faster, many are implanted and the FDA does not enforce the regulations. There is no requirement for a withdrawal period. This is regulatory anarchy.

We use nearly sixty carcinogenic pesticides in the growth and production of food crops, and instead of the NCI and ACS going to Congress and making the problem clear, they are totally silent. In fact, the ACS has performed damage control in one case. When the TV program "Front Line" was to present a program on the dangers of pesticides in foods, ACS put out a media blitz trivializing the risk of pesticides in foods before the Front Line show was aired. It was subsequently canceled.

Industrial contaminants, PCBs, dioxanes, food coloring agents, etc., and now we come to nitrite preservatives. Nitrites react with amines in cosmetics and in meat and fish, producing nitrosamines. We knew in the seventies of the high content of nitrosamines in hot dogs. The FDA tried to bury the data. In the last few years, we have clear proof of increased brain cancers and leukemia in children eating hot dogs, 5-10 per day.

What Can We Do?

How can we, as clinicians, deal with this? We must first inform ourselves, so that we can counsel our patients. We must remember an important part of our sacred Hippocratic oath: "First, do no harm." The Cancer Prevention Coalition takes initiatives on labeling at a national level. Every citizen has the right to know if there are carcinogens in his household products and his food. This is unarguable. You can argue about the science or the economics, but it is unassailable to say that people have the right to know the truth. This also provides a powerful incentive to responsible and responsive industry to phase out carcinogens and replace them with safer alternatives.

The German government has taken steps to phase out diethanolamine and triethanolamine from cosmetics, because they produce nitrosamines. There has been no such attempt in this country. Nor has there been any such attempt to label this information on hot dogs. This is outrageous, scientifically and constitutionally outrageous. More important is the realization that we are in the middle of an avoidable cancer epidemic. It is untenable to say "I am just a doctor, and I have nothing to do with this."

Who should be telling doctors and citizens about these things? The NCI and ACS, of course. However, the NCI and ACS are part of the cancer/pharmaceutical industrial complex and, as such, are unlikely to change.

I feel that you all have the right to demand documentation and proof of the assertions I have made today. For that purpose, I refer you to the article I wrote for The American Journal of Industrial Medicine, June 1993 which has detailed citations to verify all the information given in this lecture.

Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, MD

For more information, follow these hyperlinks:

Adjunctive Therapies for Cancer
Ayurvedic Medicine Approach to Cancer
Biologic Therapies for Cancer
Energy Medicine in the Treatment of Cancer
Herbal Treatment of Cancer
Homeopathy in the Treatment of Cancer
Immune Therapies for Cancer
Metabolic Therapies for Cancer
Nutritional Therapies for Cancer
Natural Cancer Therapies


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