Breast Cancer and Anti-Perspirant

One contemporary debate that has emerged surrounding breast cancer is whether or not anti-perspirant causes breast cancer. While some scientists believe that breast cancer cells are caused by the use of underarm anti-perspirant or deodorant, others believe that there is no conclusive link between breast cancer and the use of these products. And while breast cancer awareness is aimed at the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of breast cancer, breast cancer research has found conflicting results on this issue, suggesting that there is still no definitive answer as to whether or not anti-perspirant causes breast cancer.

Anti-Perspirant: The Cause of Breast Cancer?

The relationship between the development of breast cancer cells and the use of underarm anti-perspirants and deodorants was first brought to light when reports suggested that these hygiene products contain harmful substances that could be easily absorbed through the skin and enter the body through often imperceptible nicks caused by shaving.

Some scientists have proposed that the substances found in underarm hygiene products could cause the development of breast cancer cells because these products are often applied next to the breast.

Examining the Relationship Between Breast Cancer and Anti-Perspirant

Breast cancer statistics have not been able to demonstrate a clear link between the use of anti-perspirants and the development of breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer research has reveled contradictory reports on whether or not anti-perspirant causes breast cancer.

Breast Cancer and Shaving
A 2002 study attempted to establish a clearer relationship between the above two elements. This study did not find an increased risk for breast cancer in women who reported using underarm anti-perspirant or deodorant.

The study also reported no increased risk for breast cancer in women who used blade (non-electronic) razors in the underarm region and anti-perspirant or deodorant. The issue of whether or not applying one of these hygiene products shortly after shaving could cause breast cancer was also addressed.

The study did not find that women who reported using anti-perspirant or deodorant within one hour of shaving with a blade razor had an increased risk of breast cancer. Study results were based on interviews with 813 who had breast cancer and 793 women who had no history of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer and the Age Factor
Alternatively, a 2003 study that examined the frequency of underarm shaving and anti-perspirant and deodorant use among 437 breast cancer survivors demonstrated that the age of breast cancer diagnosis was lower in women who used these products and who shaved more frequently.

In addition, the study found that women who began these hygiene practices prior to 16 years of age were diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age compared with those women who began these hygiene practices later on in life. However, while this study suggests a link between these hygiene practices and breast cancer, no conclusive link has been found, meaning that further research is required.

Chemicals and Anti-Perspirant
A 2004 study found that 18 of 20 samples of breast tissue contained parabens (chemical substances that function as preservatives), an active ingredient found in most anti-perspirants.

Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen, which has been linked to breast cancer as estrogen promotes the growth of cancerous cells in the breast. Studies have also analyzed the use of parabens in food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

While this study suggests a link between parabens and breast cancer, it did not conclude that parabens are only found in cancerous breast tissue, nor did it establish the source of parabens.

Alternatives

Anti-perspirants have been particularly put under the microscope when evaluating the link between anti-perspirants and breast caner, as evidence suggests that they contain aluminum salts, which mimic estrogen.

Anti-perspirants block the body’s natural release of toxins, leading to an accumulation of toxins in the body and to the mutation of cells (cancer). As such, some experts are recommending the use of aluminum-free or natural deodorant products in lieu of anti-perspirant products containing aluminum.

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