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Antiperspirant: Link to Breast Cancer?

There's Much Debate, but Association May Be Just an Urban Myth
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Risks of Aluminum Exposure? continued...

She adds that women should consider cutting down on their antiperspirant use or cutting them out entirely.

"If a product is labeled antiperspirant it probably contains aluminum salts," she says. "I stopped using these products eight years ago, and now I wonder why I ever bothered. Soap and water and maybe a little talcum powder seem to do the job nicely."

She acknowledges, however, that cellular studies fall far short of proving that regular use of antiperspirants poses any kind of cancer risk.

In earlier studies she found that preservatives commonly found in antiperspirants and other cosmetics, known as parabens, may also influence breast cancer risk by mimicking estrogen. Other studies show that the metal cadmium, found in the environment and a component of cigarette smoke, does the same thing.

"Each of these agents on their own may not have a powerful effect, but we need to see what happens when a number of them act together, she says. "It could be that this would have a significant effect on disease like breast cancer."

Cancer Groups Weigh In

In a report released in 2004, officials with the National Cancer Institute concluded that there was "no conclusive research" linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants to breast cancer.

Likewise, a recently released report from the American Cancer Society concluded that "there is no good scientific evidence to support the claim" that antiperspirants raise a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

ACS spokeswoman Elizabeth Ward, PhD, tells WebMD that there is not much evidence that any environmental exposure has a big impact on breast cancer risk. She points out that studies examining pesticides known to mimic estrogen have failed to show a link between exposure and breast cancer.

"This is a topic that is still under study, and it is important to study it further," she says. "But no strong evidence has emerged of a relationship [between breast cancer risk] and exposure to environmental contaminants."

A major government study involving 50,000 sisters of women with breast cancer may provide some answers about environmental and genetic causes of the disease.

The 10-year Sister Study, begun in 2004, will be the most detailed study ever to address the question of how environmental exposures, including cosmetic exposures, influence breast cancer risk, she says.

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