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False Rumor Says Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer (dateline October 14, 1999)

Over the past few months, an inaccurate e-mail message has been broadly circulated stating that the use of antiperspirants is a leading cause of breast cancer. The false e-mail message, claiming antiperspirants (or antiperspirant/deodorant combinations) interfere with the body’s need to purge dangerous "toxins," is angering health care professionals and alarming women across the country. The e-mail message reports 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. According to the Blue Cross "Top Ten Exercise Myths: Myth #5" (, 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 body’s temperature back down to normal.

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. recently contacted Proctor and Gamble, a leading manufacturer of antiperspirants, who also dispelled the rumor, stating that the Food and Drug Administration would not approve a product that causes breast cancer.

The inaccurate e-mail message also 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 Sureä , Speed Stickä , Degreeä , Secretä ) is Aluminum Zuconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY, which poses no risk to the body’s cells.

Though antiperspirant does not cause breast cancer, researchers have identified several factors that may increase a women’s risk of developing breast cancer, including:

  • Age
  • 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
  • Obesity
  • 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

Additional Resources and References:

Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s June 1999 article, "E-mail Rumor Inaccurately Links Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer," available online at

Independent Blue Cross, "Top Ten Exercise Myths, Myth # 5: It's good to 'sweat out the toxins.'" available at