ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE - Could the high incidence of breast cancers in Nigerian women be related to 1,4-Dioxane in skin lightening products?

Yetunde M. Olumide, Olusola O. Ayanlowo, Ayesha O. Akinkugbe, Erereoghor Otrofanowei, Sherifat B. Adeniyi, Olawale S. Peters, Omotola O. Olumodeji, Macaulay O. Idumah, Abba O. Gabriel


Two monstrous female health-related issues are currently engaging the attention of the global community. These are the chemical skin-lightening issue and the rising female breast cancer issue. Nigeria has the highest prevalence of chemical skin lightening practice with 77.3% of traders in Lagos using such products and one of the highest incidences of breast cancer globally of 50.5 per 100,000 women. 1,4-Dioxane, a possible contaminant in toiletries and cosmetics, is an IARC group 2B carcinogen and a potential breast carcinogen. It is generated when ethylene oxide -a known breast carcinogen is added to other chemicals during manufacturing. The skin lightening procedure is most conducive for optimal per-cutaneous absorption and inhalation of Dioxane. The research question entertained was if there is a link in the increasing prevalence of skin lightening practice and the rising breast cancer burden in Nigeria. One hundred skin lightening products procured from across Lagos, Nigeria had their listed contents scrutinized and entered onto a spreadsheet, then they were analyzed for Dioxane using Scalia’s Solid Phase Extraction gas chromatography procedure. Water (Aqua) 66%, Glycerin 60% and Tocopherol or Vitamin E 41% were found to be the most listed ingredients on the package labels, with Vitamin C 28%, Kojic acid 26%, Citric acid 22% and Carrot oil seen in 20% of products. All the analyzed samples were negative for Dioxane. The study brought to the fore the need to explore other potential breast carcinogens in skin lightening cosmetics and environmental chemicals.


Breast cancer; 1,4-Dioxane; skin lightening; carcinogen

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