Journal of applied toxicology : JAT

Oestrogenic activity of benzyl salicylate, benzyl benzoate and butylphenylmethylpropional (Lilial) in MCF7 human breast cancer cells in vitro.

PMID 19338011


Benzyl salicylate, benzyl benzoate and butylphenylmethylpropional (Lilial) are added to bodycare cosmetics used around the human breast. We report here that all three compounds possess oestrogenic activity in assays using the oestrogen-responsive MCF7 human breast cancer cell line. At 3 000 000-fold molar excess, they were able to partially displace [(3)H]oestradiol from recombinant human oestrogen receptors ERalpha and ERbeta, and from cytosolic ER of MCF7 cells. At concentrations in the range of 5 x 10(-5) to 5 x 10(-4 )m, they were able to increase the expression of a stably integrated oestrogen-responsive reporter gene (ERE-CAT) and of the endogenous oestrogen-responsive pS2 gene in MCF7 cells, albeit to a lesser extent than with 10(-8 )m 17beta-oestradiol. They increased the proliferation of oestrogen-dependent MCF7 cells over 7 days, which could be inhibited by the antioestrogen fulvestrant, suggesting an ER-mediated mechanism. Although the extent of stimulation of proliferation over 7 days was lower with these compounds than with 10(-8 )m 17beta-oestradiol, given a longer time period of 35 days the extent of proliferation with 10(-4 )m benzyl salicylate, benzyl benzoate or butylphenylmethylpropional increased to the same magnitude as observed with 10(-8 )m 17beta-oestradiol over 14 days. This demonstrates that benzyl salicylate, benzyl benzoate and butylphenylmethylpropional are further chemical components of cosmetic products which give oestrogenic responses in a human breast cancer cell line in culture. Further research is now needed to investigate whether oestrogenic responses are detectable using in vivo models and the extent to which these compounds might be absorbed through human skin and might enter human breast tissues.