Is There Really a Link Between Antiperspirant Use & Breast Cancer?

connection between anti-perspirant and cancerEvery so often you read something on social media about antiperspirant being linked to cancer and probably wonder if there's any truth to it. Of course, no one wants to think she's intentionally harming herself each day for the sake of saving a little sweat. Before you toss your antiperspirant in the trash, we reached out to an oncologic surgeon to find out if this is merely a myth or if there's more to it.


Jay Harness, MD, oncologic surgeon at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California, says to the best of his knowlege "there is no scientific evidence linking any type of deodorant or underarm 'microflora' to an increased risk of any cancer."

"A few years ago there was a lot of concerns from women about deodorants and breast cancer risk," Harness says. "This was because parabens, a major compound in antiperspirants, are found in many breast tumors. But they’re present in tissues of non-users as well, according to studies."

Parabens aren't the only material in question. Aluminum is another substance that's been detected in tumors and caused many women to pursue more natural alternatives to their deodorants. But should we all follow suit?
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"Doctors scrambled to help patients understand that the disparate facts did not necessarily coalesce into a coherent whole of cause and effect," Harness explains. "Just because the parabens were found in breast tumors, for example, didn’t mean that they triggered the cancer. Then, a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology alleviated concerns about underarm products. According to the study, UK researchers found that paraben traces are present in the tissue of almost all breast cancer patients, whether or not they use antiperspirants."
If that doesn't put your concerns to rest, Harness points out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rated the risk of parabens as low.

"The FDA concludes 'that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens,'" he notes. "The American Cancer Society also says there is no reason to worry about antiperspirants, noting on its website that: 'There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim.'"

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If that information still isn't enough to allay your fears or debunk this potential myth, Harness has some advice.

"[For] those unable to shake their concerns about parabens and who wish to be extra cautious but don’t want to give up feeling fresh, many companies, such as Burt’s Bees and Weleda, offer paraben-free products," he says.


Image via Maksim Toome/Shutterstock

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