Apr 15 2010

Cancer Chronicles: chemical conundrums

Published by at 2:10 pm under health,it's science!,me vs. cancer = I win

I was idly thinking about how it might be nice to have a monthly pedicure routine start up with a friend or two, as part of the “reclaiming the body beautiful” process (also the foot bath and massage chair would be genuinely therapeutic for where I’m at in recovery), when I was struck by another set of thoughts.

Breast cancer is a “modern era” illness, showing up in vastly higher percentages in developed, industrialized nations. The best guess so far as to why is a genetic predisposed tendency towards it plus exposure to chemical and other environmental toxins in the environment.

I am strongly disinclined to become the sort of paranoid that worries and obsesses over every chemical exposure in my environment. I live in a modern, industrialized nation. I eat food purchased at a supermarket. I live in a home where cleaning products are used at least biweekly. The life changes necessary to remove most or all of those contaminants would be extreme and not very sustainable given my current needs — not to mention that I can go as far out to the country and grow all my own food as I want, and I still have to breathe the chemically-contaminated air in the atmosphere, worry about the water table, and etc and so on.

On the other hand, I don’t have a problem at all examining my life and minimizing my exposure to unnecessary chemical and other potential contaminants in an effort to make it as easy as possible for my immune system to stay on top of preventing any future problems. And I realized that you can certainly absorb things through your nailbeds, and that nail polish is pretty much all chemicals.

So what do the readers think? Is this the sort of minimal exposure, only happens every couple of months sort of chemical question to not worry about? Or are painted toes the type of “not worth the risk” simple thing to eliminate from my life since it wasn’t a hugely established routine anyway? Are there less-toxic nail polish options that actually work similarly? (If the “more natural” polish only stays on a couple of days it’s not worth the effort involved, compared to a month or more of the traditional polish’s duration.) More general thoughts?

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Cancer Chronicles: chemical conundrums”

  1. Caseyon 15 Apr 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Would doing a pedicure with a full foot rub and pumice, with deep moisturizers and then filing the nails and trimming the cuticles, but using a buffer and rubbing something like almond oil into the nails have the same pampering effect?

  2. Reesaon 15 Apr 2010 at 3:19 pm

    @Casey – Oh I don’t think the rest of the pedicure idea is in question, I certainly think all the other parts (soaking, massage, lotion/oil, etc) will have beneficial effects. I’m simply trying to think specifically on the issue of how and whether or not to include the nail polish step. I enjoy seeing pretty colored toes after the fact, it’s a small happiness. On the other hand, I’m not so attached to them I can’t find several other ways to enhance physical decorations and create little joys in less chemical fashion if it seems prudent.

    Similar questions I can see coming up over things like hair dyeing and other similar issues. I already don’t really use any make-up except on costuming occasions. When I use lotion it’s a cocoa or shea butter base and usually just the unscented base oil. I use low-chemical-impact hair shampoo and conditioner, Aveeno body wash, and a jojoba face cleanser, and that’s it for body care chemicals. Brush my teeth with normal mint toothpaste, though I’ve switched to using soft instead of medium bristles during recovery. I’ve altered my vitamin intake to reflect the post-cancer surgery recommendations.

    I can’t even think of where else I’d be coming into contact with chemical beauty-product or personal care things, am I forgetting something?

  3. Julie Olivieron 15 Apr 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Interesting coincidence, but I recently found a website about chemicals in beauty products http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com and one of the items I seemed most interested in was nail polish. They said that OPI has caved in to pressure in the past few years and has removed many of the key offenders. http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=224

    Other areas: deodorant, contact solution, sunscreen (one of the worse offenders)

  4. Reesaon 16 Apr 2010 at 11:24 am

    @Mary – good point! I haven’t switched over to luna pads or a cup or anything yet, but do have a menstrual routine that usually only involves tampons when I want to leave the house — which yes, will get more relevant as I continue to heal. I’ve been using “Liquid Silk” for years, an imported sugars-free silicone-friendly lube, so I think I’m ok there (but good to double check). Can’t think of other “feminine products” I use, except yeast infection treatment which happens maybe 1-2 times per year at most. Occasional cocoa butter as moisturizer if needed.

  5. Reesaon 16 Apr 2010 at 7:33 pm

    @Julie – ahha, you found one! I gave up deodorant years ago except for business occasions, have been using the same contact solution since I started wearing contacts (opti-free) so I should probably sheck on that, but sunscreen ding ding ding! I have already had two pre-cancerous moles removed so sunscreen is definitely NOT optional summer wear (or really all year if I’m smarter from now on), how toxic is your average sunscreen? And what are the alternatives, and how effective in UV prevention are they comparatively?

  6. Pamela Deanon 16 Apr 2010 at 8:24 pm

    This is the url of the Environmental Working Group.


    They rate cosmetic products for toxicity. Their standards are very draconian — they downgrade products for having fragrance, because some people are allergic — but they provide a huge amount of information, so you can look up a product and decide that you don’t want carcinogenic stuff in it but you don’t care about neurotoxicity in rats. You can also search for ingredients you know you want to avoid.