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Breast Cancer Link to Environmental Estrogens - Carcinogenic Red Dyes

Updated on December 14, 2012
The Maraschino Cherry, popular in beverage cocktails, fruit cocktails, candies, and cakes, was taken off the store shelves for several months in the 1950s. Only the green variety could be found for sale.
The Maraschino Cherry, popular in beverage cocktails, fruit cocktails, candies, and cakes, was taken off the store shelves for several months in the 1950s. Only the green variety could be found for sale.

In the 1950s, a media scare erupted about the red dyes used in Maraschino Cherries.

Red Dye #6 was proclaimed a "known" carcinogen, causing all kinds of cancer, including breast cancer. The truth revealed later that this particular dye was not as harmful as reported in the news, but still harmful and removed from the US food market. However, it was found that red dyes are Environmental Estrogens that affect the human body in the same ways as does the female hormone estrogen, and act in only small doses as well, making them potentially more dangerous as a cancer risk than natural estrogen.

Red Dye #6 was banned from the US marketplace, but other red dyes emerged and all red dyes have some estrogen-like effects. Aside form this, they can result in some allergic reactions unrelated to cancer. In addition to potentially carcinogenic actions, red dyes can result in allergies, from skin reactions to anaphylactic shock and death.

FD& C Red colorings Number 40, 3, and 2 are certified safe by the US FDA (#2 red dye only for certain purposes). However, individuals still experience allergic reactions to them. For example, one of my clients could not eat food from a red paper picnic plate, because a small amounf of the dye substance made him extremely ill. I once suffered extreme nausea, vomiting and headache from wearing a red linen top and trouser set that carried a load of red dye (confirmed by physician). Certain yellow dyes in food can cause annoying ittching. All of these dyes are not always safe and convenient because of allergic reactions or carcinogenic potential.

Quote from above research article

Prolonged exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors is known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. These hormonally active agents may disrupt normal development of mammaryepithelia and support the growth of breast tumors. Animal and epidemiological studies further suggest an imprinting phenomenon by which early exposure to estrogenic chemicals potentiatesa carcinogenic process of breast cancer.

[National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong]

NOTE: Examination at these institutions of links between environmental estrogens and cancers, including breast cancer cells (which the environmenrt estrogens are believed to exacerbate or proliferate) is ongoing.

Food Additives

 In March 2009, news reports indicated that Italian researchers examined 1500 food additives for carcinogenic properties.  We note that cancer-causing potential is not always considered with the FDA clears a food additive for use in America.

The Italians found at least 13 food additives that can be carcinogenic. And are quite likely to be so. One is a preservative that prevents decay and spoilage of fats like cooking oil: propyl gallate.  It is listed an an ingredient in many sorts of bakery items, shortenings, dried meats, candies, fresh pork sausage, mayonnaise, and even dried milk powder. Read ingredient labels at your supermarket.

The second top contender is used inroder to prevent the discoloration of shellfish like lobster, shrimp, and others. This is 4-hexyl resorcinol. The first time I ever tasted shrimp at a peel-and-eat buffet seafood lunch, I ate too many and suffered a rash that looked a little like chicken pox. It disappeared inless than a week and I presumed that shell impurities were responsibile. However, it could have been a preservative. Its applied-for status as an official  GRAS - Generally Recognized As Safe item with the FDA has been waiting for approval since 1990.

In 2010, the US food market had at least 3,000 food additives and we do not know which or how many of them are potentially cancer-causing agents.

Plant Estrogens

These compounds found in plants (food plants) are called phytoestrogens . They are natural and are contained in clover, soybeans, other legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and some seaweeds. related to this, customary seaweed consumption among Japanese women long-term has been thought to prevent the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.

Synthetic chemical environmental estrogens are made commercially by people purposely or as a byproduct. These are contained in many pesticides, some plastics (bisphenol A, phthalates), pharmaceuticals like birth control pills, DES, and cimetidine; household products (some detergents and surfactants; some industrial chemicals; and heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium. Scientists at the Univeristy of California, Davis Center for Environmental Health Studies are continuing to study the effects of environmental estrogens on the human body.

Environmental Estrogens

Environmental Estrogens comprise another group of substances of which to beware in the consideration of human health, including the prevention of cancers and particularly, breast cancer. It would be wise to stay informed about the ongoing fight to end breast cancer by reading the daily news concerning this insidious disease.

Comments and Experiences

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    • profile image

      Cancer Awareness 

      10 years ago

      nice and useful hub i always search your name to read you....keep posting

    • Kotori profile image


      10 years ago from Chicagoland

      Great hub. I've been researching this ever since my older son broke out in a rash from the red food coloring on his first birthday cake.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Best wishes you your friend in recovering fully, Anath! You are a real friend for mentioning and supporting her. The world needs more of you. Cheers!

    • Anath profile image


      10 years ago

      Very interesting, recently a friend of mine discovered that she had breast cancer. Thankfully her treatment is going very well. I am sharing this on facebook.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Thanks. I will share this with others. Great information.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yes, as I mentioned, clothing dyes can be harmful.

      , WildIris; thank you!

      Ben Zoltak!- Good observation. It's usually food coloring off the grocery shelves, supposed to be vegetable, but it's still too red to my eye. Too red, I don't eat.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      10 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      I keep thinking of Red Velvet cake, I wonder if they used to use beets? The artificial red in that cake has to be through the roof!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for the informative Hub. I usually think of cancer exposure being linked to ones environment or food, but what about the dye in clothing?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      And some may not even be thinking of health effects at all, just pretty colors.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, Patty, for this great eye opener. The chemical and food industry does not care as long their profit is there.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Glory! - What wonderful comments from you all! You cannot imagine how pleased I am that my experiences in preventive medicine and public health education are coming in handy this week. And I happened to remember about old news stories of red dyes and started digging.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      10 years ago

      Beautiful Hub Patty!!

      Thank you so much for sharing!! I thought I was pretty well versed on the subject but found several things I didn't know! (Like hormone replacement increasing the chances of kidney stones!?)

      You are the BEST!!

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      Patty, you are always coming with the most amazing information. Although I favour natural foods and seasonal eating I had never heard about the link between red dyes and cancer. I was just of the idea that all these artificial colourings and flavours are not good for you mainly because as consumers we have no idea of what we are eating. I tend to think that if I cannot pronounce it or decipher what is it in a product, then I shouldn't really eat it. After all nothing can compare to a fresh and juicy cherry... why use a treated one that has such an artificial flavour?

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      10 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks for helping to get the word out on this one Patty. I've known about the environmental effects that mimic female hormones for some time, but lots of old times think I'm making it up!



    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      10 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      My notion about dyes is that it can cause different kinds of ailments, including cancer -breast cancer-, once taken in large doses. That's why children these days are cautioned by teachers in school not to eat red meats and other foods that enhance its colors with dyes.

      Thanks for this hub, Patty. Rated it up

    • eovery profile image


      10 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Wow, I know my daughter would throw up after she ate things with red dyes in them. Now I know why.


      Keep on hubbing!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      10 years ago from Northern, California

      Another strong and informative hub Patty, Up and Awesome. Very interesting thing how research from other countries reveals things the US may not be concerned with. We have always thought the US to have the more difficult measures to live up to. Looks like seaweed(environmental estrogens)would be a good addition in the fight against breast cancer. Very good read.



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