Like any other daily hygiene habit, rolling on a stick of deodorant after a shower or throughout the day for a quick refresher has become commonplace. When is the last time you gave your underarm activities a second thought?
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Aside from switching up scents or brands every once in a while, why should we be paying more attention to the toiletry that merely keeps us from sweating through our clothes?
“In recent years, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about deodorants and antiperspirants and their relationship to breast cancer,” says radiation oncologist Chirag Shah, MD.
“Part of the reason this theory emerged is because we used to tell patients that they couldn’t use aluminum-containing antiperspirant during radiation, because there were concerns that the aluminum would increase the skin irritation that can result from radiation cancer treatment,” Dr. Shah adds.
Can deodorant actually cause breast cancer, though? Read on to find out.
What’s the relationship between deodorants and antiperspirants and breast cancer?
Whatever time we might spend on thinking about our deodorants and antiperspirants is hoping they’ll solve our body odor and sweat issues — not worrying about their potentially harmful ingredients and their proximity to our breasts.
Because of this, scientists have researched and studied the potential connection between deodorants and antiperspirants to breast cancer. You’ll be relieved to learn that there is no relationship between these products and breast cancer. Additionally, studies found no increase in skin side effects with the use of deodorants during breast radiation.
No scientific evidence has been discovered that links the use of these deodorants and antiperspirants to the development of breast cancer.
Are there any ingredients in deodorants linked to cancer?
Aluminum is the major ingredient found in deodorants and antiperspirants that allows the products to do their job. The active aluminum compound works to plug up each sweat duct in your armpit so sweat doesn’t reach your skin’s surface and leave you with embarrassing sweat marks that stain your clothes.
“Some may think that because the aluminum is being applied every day and being absorbed into the skin near the breasts, that it can have estrogen-like effects,” says Dr. Shah. “And while estrogen can promote the development and growth of some breast cancer cells, nothing has consistently shown that the aluminum in your deodorant is producing estrogen-like effects or causing breast cancer.”
Most deodorants and antiperspirants also contain chemical toxins that may put a consumer on edge, like:
- Parabens. These preservatives, found in many personal care products, can mimic estrogen and disrupt your body’s natural hormone production. No definitive evidence has shown that this ingredient can directly cause breast cancer, however.
- Triclosan. Triclosan is a pesticide found in many home products like antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, makeup and more, that aims to prevent bacterial growth.
- Phthalates. Research has come up inconclusive with these plasticizers found in many household objects. Today, most harmful phthalate-containing products have been removed from shelves for consumer safety.
- Propylene glycol. Most commonly known for its use in antifreeze, no research has linked this ingredient to the development of cancer. In fact, global organizations have deemed it safe for use in everyday foods, medications and cosmetics.
What to do if you’re still concerned about the ingredients in deodorant
We understand wanting to expose your body to as few chemical and non-natural elements as possible.
If you’re looking for a deodorant/antiperspirant alternative, natural versions exist, as well as the use of baking soda.
No matter what product you use under your arms, be sure to discuss any type of breakout, rash or skin irritation with your doctor.
“I think there are other things we should probably be more concerned about when it comes to breast cancer risk. Age, the use of hormone replacement therapy and family history are some of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer, and those are more important, in my opinion,” says Dr. Shah.