False Rumor Says Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer
Since the late 1990s, an inaccurate rumor has been broadly circulated through the Internet and new media stating that the use of antiperspirants is a leading cause of breast cancer. The false rumor, claiming antiperspirants (or antiperspirant/deodorant combinations) interfere with the bodys need to purge dangerous "toxins," is angering health care professionals and alarming women across the country. The rumor claims that because antiperspirants actually work to stop underarm perspiration (as opposed to regular deodorants that merely provide fragrance), certain toxins become trapped inside the body. These toxins, according to the rumor, are deposited in the lymph nodes below the arms, leading to cell mutations and the development of breast cancer.
This link between antiperspirants
and breast cancer is completely inaccurate.
The body does not, in fact, need to purge toxins from the armpits in the form of perspiration. There are no toxins to purge; sweat is made up of a combination of 99.9% water, sodium, potassium and magnesium. Sweating during exercise is beneficial because the evaporation of sweat from the skin cools the bodys temperature back down to normal. The application of antiperspirants to the underarms does not affect this cooling process as only around 1% of sweat glands are located in the armpits. Perspiration is more noticeable here simply because it is more difficult for sweat to evaporate from this area.
In addition, extensive studies have been conducted on the risk factors of developing breast cancer, none of which have been linked in any way to the use of antiperspirants. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. Likewise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have any evidence or data to suggest that underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.
Imaginis.com recently contacted Unilever and Procter and Gamble, both leading manufacturers of antiperspirants. Both dispelled the rumor, stating that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would not approve a product that causes breast cancer.
A widely-circulated, inaccurate email message claims that "women who apply antiperspirant right after shaving increase the risk [for breast cancer] further because shaving causes almost imperceptible nicks in the skin which give the chemicals entrance into the body from the armpit area." Again, this information is false. The active ingredient in several popular antiperspirants or antiperspirant/deodorant combinations (including Sure, Speed Stick, Degree, Secret) is Aluminum Zuconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY, which poses no risk to the bodys cells.
Though antiperspirant does not cause breast cancer, researchers have identified several factors that may increase a womens risk of developing breast cancer, including:
- Family history
- Previous breast biopsy showing benign conditions
- Menstruation beginning at an early age
- Menstruation continuing past age 50
- Not having children
- Having a first child after age 30
- High fat diets
- Alcohol and smoking
- Mutations of the genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Long term hormone replacement therapy
Women who develop breast cancer may or may not have any of these factors. For more detailed information about the risk factors for breast cancer, please visit http://www.imaginis.com/breasthealth/bc_risks.asp.
- Unilever has developed a website to address concerns about antiperspirants and health: http://www.antiperspirantsinfo.com/
- Darbre PD. Underarm cosmetics and breast cancer. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2003; 23(2):89-95.
- Jones J. Can rumors cause cancer? Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2000; 92(18):1469-1471.
- National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov/
- FDA, http://www.fda.gov/
Updated: December 17, 2007