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Antiperspirants, parabens and breast cancer

Over the past few years, there have been reports, e-mails and websites that say using antiperspirants might cause breast cancer. These reports and e-mails incorrectly state that:

  • the lead cause of breast cancer is the use of antiperspirants
  • antiperspirants stop the body from perspiring (sweating), which keeps toxins inside the body
  • nearly all breast cancers are in the upper outside quadrant of the breast area where the lymph nodes are located
  • men are less likely to develop breast cancer because most of the antiperspirant is caught in the hair and not directly applied to the skin

There have been many thorough studies of breast cancer risk that show the use of antiperspirant is not a risk factor for breast cancer. A study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute in October 2002 found that breast cancer risk did not increase with the use of antiperspirant or deodorant, the use of a product right after removing underarm hair with a razor or the use of products within one hour after shaving.

Antiperspirants do stop perspiration, but the main purpose of perspiration is to cool the body - not to get rid of toxins. Lymph nodes in the armpits do clear some toxins from the body, but your liver and kidneys are more important for clearing substances from your system, and far more toxins are removed by your kidneys and liver than through perspiration.

While it is true that about half of breast cancers are in the upper outer quadrant, the reason is not related to lymph nodes - it's because most of the breast tissue is located there. The breast quadrants are not of equal size - the nipple is not in the true centre of the breast and a large amount of breast tissue extends toward the underarm.

Because hormonal factors play a role in breast cancer, only about 1% of all breast cancers are in men. There is not scientific evidence that antiperspirant or deodorant cause, or increase, a man's or woman's risk of breast cancer.

Several years ago, research published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found an ingredient called parabens in 20 human breast tumours. Parabens are preservatives used in many cosmetic products (including antiperspirant). The research stated that parabens have been known to act like estrogen, which can speed up the growth of breast cancer tumours.

The research did not show a direct link between antiperspirants, deodorants and breast cancer. Though the findings are interesting, the study was small. More research is needed to provide answers about this issue.

More information on
Risk factors for breast cancer



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