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One in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Yet, the burden of disease is greater in Black women. Black women have a 40% higher mortality rate than White women, and a higher incidence of breast cancer at age 40 and younger. While the underlying cause of this disparity is multifactorial, exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in hair and other personal care products has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Parabens are known EDCs that are commonly used as preservatives in hair and other personal care products, and Black women are disproportionately exposed to products containing parabens.


Studies have shown that parabens impact breast cancer cell proliferation, death, migration/invasion, and metabolism, as well as gene expression in vitro. However, these studies were conducted using cell lines of European ancestry; to date, no studies have utilized breast cancer cell lines of West African ancestry to examine the effects of parabens on breast cancer progression. Like breast cancer cell lines with European ancestry, we hypothesize that parabens promote protumorigenic effects in breast cancer cell lines of West African ancestry.


Luminal breast cancer cell lines with West African ancestry (HCC1500) and European ancestry (MCF-7) were treated with biologically relevant doses of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.


Following treatment, estrogen receptor target gene expression and cell viability were examined. We observed altered estrogen receptor target gene expression and cell viability that was paraben and cell line specific.


This study provides greater insight into the tumorigenic role of parabens in the progression of breast cancer in Black women.


This article was originally published in Journal of the Endocrine Society, volume 7, issue 8, in 2023.

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