Benzophenones chemicals found in some sunscreen and nail polish has been linked to endometriosis, according to a new study.
Not surprisingly, the industry group the Personal Care Products Council faulted the study calling it “weak” and “unconvincing,” said WebMD. The study is published in Environmental Science & Technology and found that some chemicals broadly used in sunscreens, nail polish, and other consumer products—because of their UV protecting properties—are linked to increased risks for developing endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a painful gynecological condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, typically on the exterior of the uterus and into the abdomen near the ovaries or fallopian tubes. The tissue reacts as if it were within the uterus, thickening and shedding monthly with a woman’s menstrual cycle, explained WebMD. The condition can lead to scarring and infertility and affects about one in 10 women. Studies suggest that the condition is on the rise.
The research measured concentrations of five benzophenone chemicals in the urine of more than 600 women evaluated for endometriosis, said WebMD. In small doses, benzophenones are used to protect against UV light in products such as nail polish, while, in greater levels, they can be found in sunscreens. Benzophenones are easily absorbed through the skin and can be found in 97% of the people tested, according to studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Scientists worry that the body may mistake benzophenones for hormones. “These compounds are estrogenic. They mimic estrogen in the body,” researcher Kurunthachalam Kannan, PhD, a professor of public health and environmental health sciences with the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center in Albany, told WebMD. Kannan explained that benzophenone-3 appears on sunscreen labels as oxybenzone and is even more estrogenic than the very estrogenic polycarbonate plastics chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA). Although its cause is still not known, endometriosis is fed by the female hormone estrogen.
The study found that benzophenone-1 was significantly associated with increased risks for endometriosis and that women with the highest level of this chemical in their urine—65% or more—had the greatest likelihood for the disorder, said WebMD. Benzophenone-1 is a chemical additive mostly used in nail polishes and also forms when the body breaks down oxybenzone, which is the key ingredient in sunscreen. Oxybenzone can cause skin irritation, said WebMD.
Estrogenic chemicals, such as BPA, work in the body as anti-androgens, which are substances that block hormone activity and mimic the powerful female hormone. Anti-androgens can interrupt sexual development and processes, especially in developing fetuses, infants, and children.
The anti-androgen, BPA, considered less hazardous than benzophenone-1, has been linked to breast cancer, IVF treatment failure, and future cardiac issues, and was found to mix up the body’s hormones, tricking fat cells into taking in more fat or confusing the pancreas into releasing too much insulin, the hormone responsible for the body’s fat and carbohydrate regulation. BPA has also been linked to increased anxiety and depression in preschoolers and to toxic injury and implications in intestinal problems, brain cell connection interference, increased risks of immune system diseases and disorders, problems with liver function testing, and interruptions in chemotherapy treatment. BPA has also been linked to increased risks for reproductive system disease such as uterine health and mammalian reproduction; a deadly uterine infection; premature puberty; Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and other female fertility and endocrine issues; and erectile dysfunction and male sexual problems in males as young as the developing fetus.