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INSIGHTS: The Look Good ... Feel Better Program: But at What Risk?

By Samuel S. Epstein, MD

CHICAGO, Illinois, November 8, 2005 (ENS) - Launched in 1989 by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) and the National Cosmetology Association, the Look Good ... Feel Better Program is "dedicated to teaching women cancer patients beauty techniques to help restore their appearance and self-image during cancer treatment." About 30,000 breast and other cancer patients participate yearly, each receiving a free makeover and bag of makeup.

Just what could be more noble? Or so it might just seem.

The Look Good Program is supported by 22 CTFA member cosmetic companies, including multibillion dollar household name global giants. Each year, member companies "donate over one million individual cosmetic and personal care products, valued at $10 million, and raise more than $2 million."

The Program is administered nationwide by the American Cancer Society (ACS), "which manages volunteer training, and serves as the primary source of information to the public."

There is no doubt that the products donated by the cosmetic companies, such as eye and cheek colors, lipsticks, moisture lotions, pressed powders and other makeups, are restorative. However, there is also no doubt that the ACS and the companies involved are oblivious to or strangely silent on the dangers of the Look Good products, whose ingredients are readily absorbed through the skin.

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Teen cancer patient participates in a Look Good ... Feel Better makeup session at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (Photo courtesy Memorial Sloan Kettering)
A review of 12 Look Good products, marketed by six companies, reveals that 10 contain dangerous chemical ingredients. Based on longstanding scientific evidence, these pose risks of cancer, and also hormonal, endocrine disruptive, effects.

Evidence for the cancer risks is based on standard tests in rodents, and on human epidemiological studies. Evidence for the hormonal risks is based on test tube tests with breast cancer cells, or by stimulating premature sexual development in infant rodents.

Unbelievably, the ACS explicitly warns women undergoing chemotherapy, "Don't use hormonal creams."

Take for example Estée Lauder's LightSource Transforming Moisture Lotion, Chanel's Sheer Lipstick, and Merle Norman Eye Color. These products contain ingredients which are carcinogenic, contaminated with carcinogens, or precursors of carcinogens.

The products also contain hormonal ingredients, known as parabens, one of which has been identified in breast cancer tissue, and incriminated as a probable cause of breast cancer.

The ACS silence with regard to the risks of the Look Good products extends more widely to cosmetics and personal care products used by women, personal care products used by men, and baby lotions and shampoos.

This silence is also consistent with the imbalanced objectives of the ACS highly publicized annual October "Breast Cancer Awareness Month." While dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer, this event is silent on a wide range of its avoidable causes, besides the escalating incidence of post-menopausal breast cancer, by nearly 40 percent, over the last three decades.

cosmetics

The Look Good ... Feel Better program extends to other countries as well such as Canada and New Zealand. (Photo courtesy Auckland Cancer Society)
Of likely relevance to the ACS silence is its interlocking interests with the cosmetic industry, as well as other industries. The major Look Good companies are among some 350 ACS "Excalibur Donors," each donating a minimum of $10,000 annually. Other donors include petrochemical, power plant, and hazardous waste industries, whose environmental pollutants have been incriminated as causes of breast, besides other, cancers.

Not surprisingly, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the nation's leading charity watchdog, has charged that, "The ACS is more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives."

The ACS silence is also shared by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is required by the 1971 National Cancer Act to provide the public with information on avoidable causes of cancer. In spite of $50 billion taxpayers funding since 1971, the NCI has joined with the ACS in denying the public's right to know of avoidable causes of cancer from industrial chemicals, radiation, and common prescription drugs.

Both the NCI and ACS are locked at the hip in policies fixated on damage control - screening, diagnosis, treatment and treatment-related research - with indifference to cancer prevention due to avoidable exposures to chemical carcinogens in cosmetics, other consumer products, air and water.

Equally asleep at the wheel remains the Food and Drug Administration in spite of its explicit regulatory authority. The 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act explicitly requires that, "The label of cosmetic products shall bear a warning statement ... to prevent a health hazard that may be associated with a product."

No wonder the nation is losing the winnable war against cancer.

{Dr. Samuel Epstein is professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. He is chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition at: http://www.preventcancer.com. Dr. Epstein is the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention. Contact him at: epstein@uic.edu.}



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