25 May, 2022

When I started working at Breast Cancer UK, I never thought I would be changing the way I live my daily life.

Despite the title, I haven’t stopped using products I love – I have made subtle changes so that I can live a more toxic-free lifestyle and reduce my risk of breast cancer.

Why should I ‘ditch the junk’?

I admit, I am an avid user of makeup, hair products, skin, and body care products – you name it – so when I found out about all the harmful chemicals in my daily products, I was shocked but thought (perhaps like most people): ‘What difference is it going to make if I stop now?’.

Reducing your body burden can make A LOT of difference! Healthier environments, as well as healthy lifestyles, are essential in reducing your risk of breast cancer.

*Although ideally – we would like to live in a world where everyday products contain no toxic or harmful ingredients – this sadly isn’t the case (yet!). * Campaign with us here if you agree.

What does body burden mean?

Many chemicals in everyday products and the environment affect your risk of breast cancer. Long-term exposure to combinations of these may be especially harmful. Body burden refers to the amount or concentration of chemicals that can be detected in the human body at any one time. Some types of synthetic chemicals can remain in body fluids and tissues for long periods and increase your breast cancer risk, including those that affect your hormone (or endocrine) system. These are called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). You can read more on chemicals and breast cancer risk here.

My ditch the junk journey:

The risk of breast cancer scares me, I assume like it does most people. My mum being a cancer survivor and now that I work for Breast Cancer UK, it’s put into perspective how little I was doing to reduce my risk. I was using products containing EDCs daily, I was eating red and processed meat and I was not doing the daily recommended physical exercise. But like most people in their mid-twenties, you think you’re ‘healthy’, ‘fit’ and it will never happen to you.

This is where my ‘ditch the junk’ journey started.

In my short time here at BCUK, I have realised breast cancer does not care what age you are or how healthy you ‘think’ you are. You can always do more to reduce your risk. Not sure where to start? Take our short prevention quiz, you’ll get personalised tips on how you can reduce your risk of breast cancer.

On to Grace’s top tips!

Disclaimer: Before I get into my top tips – please do not throw everything you own away! Use what you have up first – the environment is still a factor here.

Download the Yuka app

Yuka is a big part of my toxic-free journey! Yuka analyses hygiene and cosmetic products. You get a detailed data sheet for each product you scan, to help you understand its score.

The app even displays the products you have already scanned with an easy-to-understand colour code, which lets you view the product’s impact on your health.

When you scan a product with a bad score, Yuka offers independent recommendations for comparable items that are better for your health! Top tip: I tend to go into shops and scan an array of products to get the best personal alternative possible.

Make reasonable swaps

We know that maybe one or two products may not have a great alternative. But by reducing your body burden just by a small amount, you take your risk of breast cancer down with it too.

This goes for colour coding too. If the product you’re swapping goes from red to yellow, rather than red to green, this is still a small step in the right direction and you’re making great progress.

Go section by section

Start by picking a section, for example, haircare, and scan those products within it – shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, heat protectant or dry shampoo – whatever it may be!

See which ones need swapping, and y contain a lot of EDCs (they will appear as red or orange), and head to the place you get your haircare, then start scanning.

Start within the same brand, scan the products on the shelf, and see if there are simple swaps within the same-named brand that you can use instead, if not move on and keep scanning.

You may be saying ‘XYZ product doesn’t work as well though!’ – think of the bigger picture, reducing your risk of breast cancer has no limits. These small steps can help you and your future self in the long run.

Yuka can be downloaded here:

The wonderful thing about Yuka is that it’s an independent application. This means the analysis of products and their recommendations are entirely objective. Yuka receives no funding from brands or manufacturers, so you’re getting the real deal!

A brief overview of how Yuka works if you’re still unsure:

The scoring system for cosmetics analyses every ingredient that goes into the product.

Based on the latest scientific research, each ingredient is assigned a risk level according to its potential/adverse health effects: endocrine disruptive, carcinogenic, allergenic, or irritant. The potential risks associated with each ingredient are displayed in the application, with the relevant scientific sources. The score is based on the level of the highest-risk ingredient present in the product.

Ingredients are classified into four risk categories:

  • Risk-free (green dot)
  • Low risk (yellow dot)
  • Moderate risk (orange dot)
  • Hazardous (red dot)

Long story short – what have you got to lose! Try simple swaps to reduce your risk of breast cancer today. Prevention is always better than cure. Browse through our website for more information on chemicals or keep an eye out on our social media for top tips on how you can reduce your risk.

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today.


You can help make a difference. Help fund our research into EDCs – you can help prevent breast cancer for future generations. Donate today

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