Is There a Link Between Cancer and Using Deodorant?

You may have heard that using deodorant can increase the chances of developing cancer. Like most Americans, you probably use a daily regimen of deodorant or some form of antiperspirant.

Deodorants mask the odor of underarm perspiration by stopping the formation of bacteria. Antiperspirants, however, decrease perspiration from the sweat glands of the underarm. Sometimes, you may find a combination of both deodorant and antiperspirant in products that stick or roll-on to the underarm in order to remove body odor.

Such products can contain compounds, parabens, and chemicals that are estrogen-like, causing the concern of breast cancer development that can be stimulated by estrogen. This reasoning stems from the fact that more than 50 percent of breast cancers occur near the underarm in the upper outer quadrants of the breast.

Antiperspirants also can contain aluminum chloride and chlorohydrate, which can decrease the gene function BCRA-1 and the repair genes of the breast, causing further worry of the occurrence of cancer.

Others believe that shaving the underarm can cause cancer by allowing deodorant or antiperspirant chemicals to enter the body through minor razor cuts.

What Does Science Say About It?

The link between cancer and using deodorant, antiperspirant, and shaving, is a concern for 90 percent of Americans that use some form of these products.

In 2002, a study of 813 women that had been diagnosed with breast cancer was compared with 792 women that did not have breast cancer. Each woman was asked about her use of deodorant or antiperspirant, if any, and if so, how often. Results of the study concluded there were no differences in the frequency of using such products between the women that had breast cancer and the women that did not.

The women that used the odor-masking products were diagnosed with breast cancer on an average of 12.6 years sooner than the women that infrequently used such products.

Another study in 2003 focused on 437 women that had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This time, the women were asked about shaving their underarms and again about their deodorant or antiperspirant use.

The women that started shaving their underarms and using odor-masking products before the age of 16 were diagnosed with breast cancer on an average of 9.6 years sooner than the women that did so after turning 16-years-old.

It is important to note that both studies were performed after cancer had already occurred in the diagnosed women instead of involving current cancer patients. Such a study would need to include patients that do and do not shave their underarms as well as those that use or do not use deodorant or antiperspirant. Additionally, these patients would need to be followed-up for a number of years.

Find Support at UHC

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or another type of cancer, please contact The Cecil B. Highland, Jr. & Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at UHC, where you will find support, treatment options, and the latest technology.

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