We’ve seen the headlines and have heard the rumors, but what are the facts when it comes to the connection of deodorant and antiperspirant to breast cancer? Should you be concerned? And if there is no connection to deodorant/antiperspirant and breast cancer, how did this myth get started?
In the early ’90s, a false news story began circulating on the internet claiming that the everyday use of deodorant/antiperspirant leads to breast cancer. This claim continues to cause concern over the safety of deodorant/antiperspirant
Another long-standing concern has to do with the role of shaving and absorption of antiperspirant into the skin. Aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants can be absorbed through your skin through a nick or cut caused from shaving. The theory goes that after a period of time, these compounds continue to accumulate in the lymph nodes of your underarm, interacting with your DNA and eventually developing into cancerous cells.
Ingredients in Deodorants and Anti-Perspirants
Many people use the term deodorant and antiperspirant interchangeably, but the truth is they are two different products. Deodorant masks the smell of body odor while antiperspirants actually block the production of sweat. However, oftentimes deodorants are two-in-one products that have antiperspirant properties that hide odor while reducing sweat.
Aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants that block the flow of sweat from sweat glands. When pores in your underarm are blocked from sweating with aluminum, they can become clogged. This effect can increase estrogen levels in your body; the concern being that increased exposure to estrogen is correlated to a higher risk of cancer. However, this effect of estrogen production has been proven to be very minimal and not enough to increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
Separating Fact from Fiction: Is Deodorant Linked to Breast Cancer?
Rest assured, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that links deodorant use to breast cancer. There have been many studies that affirm this, including research from the American Cancer Society and the Food and Drug Administration.
What is known is that continued use of antiperspirants can cause aluminum to accumulate in breast tissue. Since breast cancer most often develops in the upper outer quarter of the breast near the armpit, people may have made the connection that that is near the same area that deodorant/antiperspirant is applied. However, having aluminum compounds near your underarm has not been proven to cause breast cancer. In fact, you are exposed to aluminum every day in many common items, such as cosmetics, food products, packaging, water and certain medications.
In addition, studies have been conducted to research the effect of underarm shaving and the use of deodorant/antiperspirant. In 2002, a study involving more than 1,500 women analyzed 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women with no history of breast cancer.
The results showed that there was not an increased breast cancer rate for women who were using deodorant/antiperspirant or who applied it within one hour of shaving their underarms. Then, in 2008 a scientific review examined results from 19 studies on the deodorant/antiperspirant and breast cancer connection and found no evidence of increased cancer risk of using the product.
If you are still hesitant to use aluminum-based deodorant, there are natural alternatives for you to consider. Check your labels to ensure you’re using an aluminum-free product. The active ingredient at the top of the label could be listed as aluminum chloralhydrate, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, aluminum sales and aluminum compounds.
Aluminum and Kidney Disease
The FDA requires aluminum-based deodorant manufacturers to include a warning label for people living with kidney disease stating “Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease.” This advisory is for people living with kidney disease whose kidneys are functioning at 30% or less (or who are at a kidney disease stage of 4-5). Typically, aluminum found in your body is filtered through your kidneys. If your kidneys are not fully functioning, they may not be able to effectively filter out all aluminum from your body.
So, Does Deodorant Cause Breast Cancer?
The bottom line is there is no conclusive evidence that links deodorant to breast cancer. Besides those living with kidney disease, deodorants and antiperspirants are safe for you to use. Claims stating otherwise are completely unfounded by science.
There are more effective, researched ways to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, including lifestyle factors, such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. Breast cancer is most successfully treated when detected early. Not only does early detection of breast cancer provide the best survival rates, but breast cancer treatment tends to be less invasive when therapy begins in the early stages of the disease.
If you’re in Connecticut and would like to find a doctor near you, you can locate a board-certified PACT primary care physician near you using our searchable list here.