Applying Diabetes to Your Skin

Diabetes risk associated with phthalates found in common personal care products

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) In this modern world, many of us use a wide variety of personal care products that are manufactured using chemicals that we know little about. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, and now, it seems, diabetes.

Phthalates - chemicals that are commonly found in moisturizers, soaps, glues, and other products - are associated with a higher risk of diabetes in women.

"Check out your household products for possible health risks."

In their recent study, Tamarra James-Todd, PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues began to explore the relationship between phthalates and diabetes risk. Phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system - the bodily system of glands that is involved in diabetes.

These chemicals already have been linked to other diseases like cancer.

Through analyzing the urine of 2,350 women, the researchers found that women with higher levels of phthalates in their urine had an increased risk of diabetes.

There are a number of different types of phthalates. Dr. James-Todd and colleagues found that the type of phthalate found in women's urine affected the association with diabetes risk.

Women with the highest levels of mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate had a risk of diabetes almost two times greater than those with the lowest levels of those phthalates.

Higher levels of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate were associated with about a 60 percent higher risk of diabetes.

Moderately high levels of mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate were associated with about a 70 percent higher risk of diabetes.

While these findings suggest these common chemicals may boost women's diabetes risk, the authors warn against reading too much into the study. It is possible that other factors about having diabetes could be leading to higher phthalate levels in these women's urine.

According to Dr. James-Todd, "We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medications that are used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed."

The women who participated in this study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants self-reported their diabetes. The researchers ran a secondary analysis on women without diabetes to see if phthalate concentrations were associated with changes in blood sugar levels.

The researchers received support from the American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The study appears appears in the July 13 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Review Date: 
July 12, 2012
Last Updated:
November 16, 2012