Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer (Fact Sheet)

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Is there any evidence linking use of underarm antiperspirants to increased breast cancer risk?
Is there any evidence linking use of underarm antiperspirants to increased breast cancer risk?

What have scientists learned about the relationship between antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer?

In 2002, the results of a study looking for a relationship between breast cancer and underarm antiperspirants/deodorants were reported (6). This study did not show any increased risk for breast cancer in women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant. The results also showed no increased breast cancer risk for women who reported using a blade (nonelectric) razor and an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant, or for women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant within 1 hour of shaving with a blade razor. These conclusions were based on interviews with 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women with no history of breast cancer.

Findings from a different study examining the frequency of underarm shaving and antiperspirant/deodorant use among 437 breast cancer survivors were released in 2003 (7). This study found that the age of breast cancer diagnosis was significantly earlier in women who used these products and shaved their underarms more frequently. Furthermore, women who began both of these underarm hygiene habits before 16 years of age were diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age than those who began these habits later. While these results suggest that underarm shaving with the use of antiperspirants/deodorants may be related to breast cancer, it does not demonstrate a conclusive link between these underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer.

In 2006, researchers examined antiperspirant use and other factors among 54 women with breast cancer and 50 women without breast cancer. The study found no association between antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer; however, family history and the use of oral contraceptives were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (8).

Because studies of antiperspirants and deodorants and breast cancer have provided conflicting results, additional research is needed to investigate this relationship and other factors that may be involved. 

Selected References

1. Jones J. Can rumors cause cancer?Exit Disclaimer Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2000; 92(18):1469–1471.

2. Darbre PD. Underarm cosmetics and breast cancer. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2003; 23(2):89–95.[PubMed Abstract]

3. Darbre PD. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 2005; 99(9):1912–1919. [PubMed Abstract]

4. Harvey PW, Everett DJ. Significance of the detection of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2004; 24(1):1–4. [PubMed Abstract]

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

6. Mirick DK, Davis S, Thomas DB. Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002; 94(20):1578–1580. [PubMed Abstract]

7. 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.[PubMed Abstract]

8. Fakri S, Al-Azzawi A, Al-Tawil N. Antiperspirant use as a risk factor for breast cancer in Iraq. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 2006; 12(3–4):478–482. [PubMed Abstract]

Source: National Cancer Institute.

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