Do Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer?
Shyla Batliwalla | DivineCaroline
October 06, 2010
From bottles and microwaves to phones and McNuggets, it seems everything is giving us cancer. While I refuse to run from my car when pumping gas or stop using my cell phone, there is one allegedly carcinogenic item that I fear: deodorant.
I used to be a fan of the clinical strength stuff; however I started getting a bit wary when I wouldn’t perspire for days on end. It just didn’t seem natural to have such incredibly dry pits. I started questioning if it was harmful that my deodorant was preventing my body from a natural process—sweating.
A popular email that circulated a few years back stated that antiperspirant causes cell mutations and leads to cancer. The explanation behind the assertion was that because we aren’t perspiring (thanks to our antiperspirant), our body has no way to rid itself of toxins. Since the toxins have nowhere to go, they deposit themselves in the lymph nodes and build up, leading to a higher likelihood of us developing breast cancer.
Subsequent research has proved the link between breast cancer occurrences and antiperspirant to be highly debatable and not necessarily true. Still, many consumers have switched from standard brands to the all-natural, aluminum-free stuff (myself included).
What’s the Alleged Link?
Cuts, nicks, and raw skin created by shaving supposedly leave skin more vulnerable to the absorption of harmful substances—specifically aluminum. Aluminum, short for aluminum chloride, is one of the most common environmental elements and a key ingredient in antiperspirants. If we absorb even more aluminum than normal into our bodies through nicks or cuts, it gets added to the natural toxins that our body is unable to release and increases our odds of developing breast cancer. Underarms are full of white-blood-cell-rich lymph nodes that aid in the removal of cancer-causing agents (including aluminum).
Antiperspirants block the skin’s ability to sweat. When you can’t sweat, you can’t rid yourself of harmful cancer-causing toxins. These toxins need to go somewhere and they end up attaching to the lymph nodes under your arms, which, logically speaking, could cause breast cancer. Antiperspirant is allegedly a carcinogen because it both prevents the body from releasing toxins and implants the toxins themselves.
Aluminum may also cause a hormonal effect similar to estrogen. Estrogen causes the production of breast cells—both normal and cancer-causing—to grow and multiply. Some scientific research does indicate that this could be a contributing factor, however the National Cancer Institute refutes these claims. Studies show that many naturally occurring compounds in the environment can mimic the production of estrogen and cause breast cancer, so antiperspirants can’t necessarily carry all the blame.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), most breast cancers develop in the upper fourth quadrant of the breast—the part closest to where the arm is attached. This is the area where deodorant is applied, further fueling the debate that antiperspirants are linked to breast cancer.
Those who believe there’s a link say that men have lower incidences of developing breast cancer from using antiperspirant because they don’t shave. The hair under their arms allegedly helps prevent the absorption of harmful chemicals by the skin.