THOUSANDS of everyday items contain chemicals that could cause breast cancer, experts warned yesterday.
The agents — called parabens — are used in a vast range of food, cosmetics and other products.
These include processed meats, pastries, sweets and snacks, facewash, make-up, moisturisers and shampoos.
Contraceptive, vitamin and mineral pills also contain parabens, which can increase the body's levels of cancer-causing hormones.
Many major British and international brands use parabens, which are often listed on packaging as methylparaben, propyl, butyl or ethylparaben.
Underarm antiperspirants have been linked to breast cancer for years after a rise in deodorant use coincided with an 80 per cent increase in diagnoses.
Aluminium — used in most brands — was thought to be the culprit. Thousands of women switched to a "natural" variety or stopped using deodorant altogether.
But sprays and roll-ons could now be given the all-clear after a new study showed the real danger may be a cocktail of parabens from different sources.
Two of Britain's top breast cancer specialists analysed tumours taken from 40 women.
Every sample was found to contain parabens — and most had more than five different types of the chemical.
Food ... pastries and meat pies are on 'risk' list
But researchers noted that some of the women did NOT use deodorants, and said they had been exposed to parabens from other sources including food, beauty products — and even the water supply.
The study was led by Dr Philippa Darbre, of Reading University, and consultant surgeon Lester Barr, from the University Hospital of South Manchester.
Dr Darbre said the presence of parabens in the samples did not necessarily mean they had actually caused the women's cancer.
Lotion and facewash ... skin will absorb parabens
But she added: "The fact that parabens were present does justify further investigation."
Mr Barr said: "The discovery that parabens are present even in women who have never used underarm products raises the question: where have these chemicals come from?"
Previous studies have revealed the effect of parabens.
Shampoo and mascara ... contain low levels of chemical
The chemicals are man-made, but once inside the body they appear to behave like the female hormone oestrogen — which has long been known to increase the risk of some forms of breast cancer.
Parabens are found in beauty products including facewashes, mascara, moisturising creams, shampoo, bubble bath, shaving foam and self-tan lotions and sprays.
They are also present in processed meats such as ham and sausages, meat pies, pastries, sweets, coated nuts and many savoury snacks.
Bacon and ham ... contain hormone-like parabens
The cosmetics industry says paraben levels are very low and safe, and keep products fresh. The US Food and Drug Administration has dismissed safety fears, saying parabens are 100,000 times weaker than the body's natural oestrogen.
More than 40,000 British women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Cosmetic creams ... kept fresh by parabens, while contraceptive pill, right, may be a risk
By PROFESSOR RICHARD SHARPE, Medical Research Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh
PARABENS are a group of antimicrobial compounds used as preservatives in a variety of products.
They are also weakly oestrogenic and lifetime exposure to oestrogens is an important risk factor for breast cancer. One concern has been whether parabens from underarm deodorants might add to the risk.
This concern was fuelled by the demonstration that parabens are readily absorbed via the skin. In this new study, the level of parabens was similar in women who had never used underarm deodorants to those who regularly used them. Therefore, the parabens detected in breast tissue do not come specifically from deodorants, and are presumed to come from other sources such as foods and cosmetics.
The study does not address whether parabens contribute to risk of breast cancer.
It suggests, but does not prove, that deodorant usage is not an important factor.
Boob job firm says no to ops
A TOP cosmetic surgery company has refused to replace breast implants for nearly 14,000 patients because it could put the firm out of business.
Harley Medical Group fitted more PIP implants than any other UK firm between 2001 and 2010.
But chairman Mel Braham said: "We can't take on this whole thing on our own, especially when it wasn't our fault."
Private group Transform has also refused.
It means that taxpayers now face a huge NHS bill to remove the implants. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley slammed the two firms, saying they had a "moral duty" to patients.
Eight firms including Nuffield Health and BMI Healthcare will pay for removal and replacement.
TV Towie Lauren in PIP scare
TOWIE star Lauren Pope has spoken of her shock after learning she has potentially dangerous PIP silicone breast implants.
Lauren, 28, heard from her surgeon's staff that she was among 40,000 Brits given implants made by now-shut French firm Poly Implant Prosthese.
She was told they were made using non-medical grade silicone and she may need them removed.
Lauren said: "The lady told me, 'You've got those implants. The English government aren't saying you need them out yet — but the French are'. I just thought, 'How the hell has this happened'?"
SOME women with ruptured PIP implants were told rough sex was to blame by doctors in Sydney, Australia.
A PROBE into anti-ageing jabs has been ordered by the Government amid health fears over lax rules governing the booming trade.
The investigation follows the scandal of 40,000 Brit women being given dodgy boob implants.
Wrinkle fillers bought via the net can be injected at home. Poorly-trained beauty therapists also offer jabs.
Fazel Fatah, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, warned women here are being used as "guinea pigs".
It is not even clear if some of the 160 injectable fillers are even safe.
NHS troubleshooter Sir Bruce Keogh is to compile a report for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.