Posts tagged ‘cancer research’

Cancer and Anti-Aging Creams

CHICAGO, IL, October 6, 2009 –/WORLD-WIRE/– Anti-aging skin products are known as cosmeceuticals, as they overlap the distinction between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. These products are the fastest growing sales sector of the entire cosmetics industry, and are widely marketed as being safe. But Cancer Prevention Coalition Chairman Dr. Samuel S. Epstein warns that altering the physical structure of skin with chemicals to look more youthful comes at a hidden price to the skin, and even more so to overall health.

The term cosmeceutical, applied to anti-wrinkle and anti-aging creams, was first adopted by the cosmetics industry in 1984. It was developed as a way to avoid subjecting the industry’s claims to the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The idea was to create a new category of products that did more than just improve the appearance of the skin, yet do somewhat less than pharmaceutical drugs.

But Dr. Epstein wants to alert consumers to the dangers of cosmeceuticals, including the increased risk of skin cancer.

In addition, he is urging the new FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D. to take “appropriate regulatory action to protect the unsuspecting public from the dangers of cosmeceuticals.”

Here is what we know of the overwhelming majority of cosmeceuticals, says Dr. Epstein, based on toxicology and clinical testing.

To increase the permeability of skin, hydroxy acids are widely sold on store shelves and used in cosmetic salons. Both alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA) are common ingredients in cosmeceuticals.

Worse still, Dr. Epstein warns, AHAs are used in an estimated 5 percent of all products without any labeling to this effect.

Even the industry’s Cosmetics Ingredient Review Compendium has admitted that these ingredients strip the skin of its protective surface, which absorbs long-wave ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and tanning salons.

Apart from increased risks of sunburn, exposure to AHAs also increases risks of a dangerous skin cancer, known as malignant melanoma. Although it is one of the less common types of skin cancer, malignant melanoma is responsible for roughly 75 percent of all skin cancer-related deaths.

Reacting to these concerns, in 1992 the FDA issued a consumer warning that products containing these ingredients “could destroy the upper layers of skin, causing severe burns, swelling and pain.” However, the FDA took no regulatory action to protect consumers, and the agency still has taken no regulatory action, Dr. Epstein points out.

Bisabolol is another cosmeceutical ingredient which strips off the surface layers of skin. This chemical is also a penetration enhancer, meaning that it increases the absorption of cosmeceutical ingredients through the skin.

Limonene is also a common ingredient in anti-aging products. “Apart from being an irritant, it is a well documented carcinogen,” says Dr. Epstein.

Parabens are commonly added to cosmeceuticals as preservatives. However, Dr. Epstein cautions consumers that even when tested at low concentrations on the skin of pregnant rodents, parabens induce toxic hormonal effects in male embryos and infants.

“Nano-particles are more recent and ultra-dangerous ingredients in cosmeceuticals, particularly anti-wrinkle creams,” warns Dr. Epstein. “By reducing the size of ingredients to the ultra-microscopic scale, they penetrate readily and deeply through the skin into the blood and organs all over the body.”

“Ninety percent of all cosmetics sold in the world today are probably cosmeceuticals,” says Dr. Albert Kligman, the dermatologist who first coined the term, in a 2005 interview with the journal Dermatologic Surgery.

“The terminology regarding the distinction between cosmetics and drugs is a marketing game in the U.S.,” Kilgman said. “If you reverse aging, you are a drug. If you smooth skin, you are a cosmetic. Categorization depends more on the language on the bottle rather than the product in the bottle.”

Dr. Epstein says, “These statements raise troubling concerns regarding the identity and safety of ingredients in cosmeceutical products. So many women, and even some men, slather these products all over their skin, the largest body organ, in the naïve belief that they have nothing to fear but aging.”

“The industry markets cosmeceuticals with anecdotal or even wild claims of effectiveness, rather than scientific data, and with reckless disregard for safety,” Dr. Epstein cautions.

He points to a 2007 warning from the respected Mayo Clinic that cosmeceuticals have rarely been tested for safety, and also that they may contain “powerful active ingredients that can affect biological processes.”

Cosmeceutical manufacturers “make a calculated decision not to make claims that will result in scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of the product as a drug,” stated Dr. Mary P. Lupo of the Tulane University School of Medicine in a 2005 issue of Dermatologic Surgery. “Clinical testing could also draw the attention of the FDA, so some manufacturers opt instead to allow the consumer arena to become the test market.”

“So there you have it!” Dr. Epstein says, “People who use cosmeceuticals are guinea pigs in reckless and self-serving industry experiments to test whether these products are safe for human health. This should be a loud siren wakeup warning for anyone who still believes that these products have been tested for toxicity by the industry, and approved by the FDA.”

In spite of these disturbing concerns, dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone, author of three New York Times best selling books, is an active proponent of a “Men’s Skin Care Line,” his patented product based on nanoparticles.

Apart from the ineffectiveness of the great majority of cosmeceutical products, most are highly priced. In 2006, Consumer Reports magazine evaluated anti-wrinkle creams on the market, and concluded there was no correlation between price and possible effectiveness. “The best advice is prevent those wrinkles in the first place,” read the review. “Stay out of the sun and don’t smoke.”

Dr. Epstein says that the cosmeceutical product Restylane is an exception to his warnings. “This Swedish anti-wrinkling agent is based on the natural ingredient hyaluronic acid, one of the very few scientifically proven safe and effective cosmeceuticals,” he says.

Besides Botox injections, which have been on the market long enough to be accepted as safe, there are emerging green alternatives to the wide range of conventional anti-aging products now on store shelves.

Dr. Epstein says these include natural botanicals, such as date palm oil, which have been found to be safe and effective for certain types of wrinkles, and topical green tea cream, which has proven effective for treating sun damaged skin.

Dr. Epstein anticipates that Dr. Hamburg, the highly respected new FDA Commissioner, will take appropriate regulatory action to protect the unsuspecting public from the dangers of cosmeceuticals.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; The Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; and author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on cancer, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and Toxic Beauty (2009).

Samuel S. Epstein, MD
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Chicago, Illinois


October 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

Making The “Army of Women” Idea Even Better

Last fall, I learned of Dr. Susan Love’s “Army of Women.”   This cause is moving in the direction of proactive civic participation with the breast cancer community.  From their site:

Women who are interested register on the Love/Avon Army of Women website, providing very basic information such as name, age, city, and state of residence.  Army of Women members will receive email updates from the Love/Avon Army of Women announcing new research studies looking for volunteers just like you.  The email will detail the research project and who and what the researchers need.  If you fit the criteria and you’d like to participate, all you need to do is reply to the email and let us know you’ve accepted our “Call to Action.”

This is a great first step, but it still keeps all the research proprietary.  In other words, there won’t be a centralized database kept on all participants across all studies they’ve participated in.  Why?  It’s likely, at least in part, due to the politics of funding medical research.

The result?  The September 15, 2008 Newsweek article entitled “We Fought Cancer…and Cancer Won” said that it is “indeed possible (and common) for cancer researchers to achieve extraordinary acclaim and success, measured by grants, awards, professorships, and papers in leading journals, without ever helping a single patient gain a single extra day of life.  There is no pressure within science to make that happen.”

While I think the AOW is a great idea, it can be made better.  Doctors need to share their data.  After all,  I own my medical history.  If I want to make my answers “public” to other medical investigators, why can’t I?  It would be a shame if egos trumped finding much needed cures.

Please click on the StandUp2Cancer badge on the main blog page.  For every completed click, this charity receives money from my sponsor.

July 13, 2009 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

NYT: Grant System Leads Cancer Researchers to Play It Safe

An outstanding NYT article to be found by clicking here.

A couple of excellent points made by readers in response to this piece:

HJBoitel talks about using super-computers to “mine” our health data for patterns.

“The United States will start getting serious about medical research and will start getting meaningful results when it is acknowledged that prevention and cure is not about doctors or institutions or competition or money — it is about data. We spend large amounts of money to track a small number of patients in a limited and often inconsistent way, and the results often are what you would expect in a pin the tall on the donkey approach.”

With HJBoitel’s approach, would everything that needs to be captured get captured?  I’m not sure.  But it’s one more thought along the same lines as what I proposed before.  Click here to find his entire, thoughtful comment.

My favorite comment came from Norma Greenfield, a cancer researcher and survivor.  She had a similar experience to mine with regard being interviewed for a study and being disappointed in its scope.

“While I was undergoing the chemotherapy treatment I was asked to participate in a survey about potential environmental causes of cancer. Since I had been exposed to many carcinogens in my life I was eager to participate in the survey…I expected that the study would ask about my exposure to carcinogens, birth control bills and the effects of estrogen replacement therapy. Instead I was asked whether I had been sexually molested when I was a child before puberty (I had not been) and I was asked detailed questions about my weekly consumption of green peppers and sweet potatoes. I was disgusted that grant money funded the study that I participated in…Too much funding depends on knowing the right people (mainly an old boys network), and not whether one is doing innovated, relevant research.”


July 1, 2009 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Can We Help Make Cancer Research Better?

I tried to volunteer.  I wanted to volunteer.  But there was no place for me to go.  That’s what I was told after participating in a study for LA County as a newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patient.

How does this make sense?  A small group of women get this disease and, unfortunately, the survival rate isn’t good.  Why wouldn’t the scientists want to learn as much as they could about us, rather than waiting for more women to get ill?  I came up with an idea to change this, and I’d like to know what you think.

Would you volunteer for an on-going investigational (non-clinical) medical research panel? The purpose would be to assist the medical community in its investigational research efforts about gynecological cancer prevention, risk assessment, and early detection; its focus would not be on clinical (drug) trials.

The basic assumptions:

  • It would be completely private and secure.
  • The entire undertaking would be non-profit.  (No buying or selling.)
  • It’s up to you to opt-in.  (You’d likely get an invitation from the government agency you were reported to at the time of your diagnosis asking you to join; this group would not be allowed to share your contact info with anyone.)
  • Only approved investigational researchers would be able to submit questions or make requests to examine answers given in prior surveys.  This would likely be done through a central agency, such as the NCI or NIH.
  • Questions would be sent roughly once a month.  You would enter your answers online or by phone using a PIN.

The benefits of this new approach are numerous, but the primary one is this:  for an individual study, data could be collected in months rather than years using this national database of volunteers.  Simply put, we’d get answers sooner and we could save more lives.


What do you think?  Please take part in the poll below.  Thank you!


June 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

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