Does Deodorant Give you Breast Cancer? What to Believe on the Rumor Mill

The Rumor Mill

Using deodorants and anti-perspirants increases the chance of breast cancer–this is a rumor that started to gain momentum in the early 2000’s. Reports that came out mainly pointed out that the harmful aluminum substances, specifically the chemical that mimics the female hormone oestrogen having a possibility of being absorbed into the skin and causing breast cancer.

What’s the Research

Specific studies look at the correlation between hygiene habits and breast cancer. The studies look at the the relationship between the use of deodorants, anti-perspirants and underarm shaving.

The Journal of Toxicology report that parabens, the preservatives found in many cosmetic products, have been found in samples of tissues of women who have breast cancer. The results further show that the aluminum can interfere with the receptors of oestrogen in the breast tissue (female hormone) and mess with gene expression.     (1)

In 2003 there was a study on the frequency of underarm shaving and antiperspirant and deodorant use among breast cancer survivors finding that diagnosis took place sooner in women who used these products and shaved  more regularly.  (2)

What the Rumors don’t tell you

The studies, while clear and concise in their methods and conclusions, oftentimes elaborate on their findings without the media ever telling you the full story.

Further studies need to be done on the effects of parabens mimicking the female hormone oestrogen and the long term effects of aluminum on breast cells. How much, aborption of anti-perspirants and the length of time of use all have to all be considered as well.

Studies do not show any conclusive conclusions to the increase risk of cancer for women who use underarm deodorants or antiperspirants. Furthermore, there is no link to cancer and shaving before applying deodorants or antiperspirants. It is also noteworthy to mention that family history and environmental factors play into the factor of whether or not a woman can get breast cancer.

Make your own decision

It has been found that the majority of breast cancers occur in the part of the breast that is the closest to the armpit. This portion is called the Upper Outer Quadrant (UOQ)  In 1926, 31% of breast cancers occurred in the UOQ, in 1947-1967 this percentage increased to 43-48%. In 1994 the percentage of this type of breast cancer reached 60.7%.   (3)

The main role of perspiration in your body is to help your body cool down. It is not the main way that your body gets rid of toxins–the liver and kidneys are much more influential.

Know that deodorant or talc containing aluminum, although has not been proven to increase the risk or cause breast cancer may show up on mammograms and might give an inaccurate reading on an x-ray test. Women going in for a mammography screening should avoid putting on this products beforehand.

What the experts think

As of now the FDA does not believe that they is any concern for consumers to be concerned about the parabens found in cosmetics sold in the market (4)

The National Cancer Institute believes there needs to be more research done on parabens and the link with aluminum-based compounds found the breast tissue that lead to breast cancer or alters changes to the breast cells and DNA to cause cancer (5)

List of Parabens

– Methylparaben (E218)
– Ethylparaben (E214)
– Propylparaben (E216)
– Butylparaben
– Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
– Methyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
– Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
– Propyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
– Butyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
– Parahydroxybenzoic acid
– Parahydroxybenzoate


1) Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller WR, et al. Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2004; 24(1):5–13.

2) McGrath KG. An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. European Journal of Cancer 2003; 12(6):479–485.

3) Darbre, P D. “Underarm Cosmetics are a Cause of Breast Cancer.” European Journal of Cancer PreEntion 10 (2001): 389-393. 24 Jan. 2008.

4)United States. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CFSAN/Office of Cosmetics and Colors. Parabens. 20 Mar. 2006. 13 Feb. 2008 <>

5)United States. National Cancer Institute. U.S. National Institutes of Health. Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers. 10 Feb. 2008 <>


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