Antiperspirant Safety: Should You Sweat It?
What to know about the rumors about antiperspirants.
Antiperspirants and Cancer continued...
Gansler says many of the studies that have been conducted were flawed, and even though a few detected chemicals from antiperspirants in breast tissue, they didn't prove that those chemicals had any effect on breast cancer risk. In fact, one well-designed study comparing hundreds of breast cancer survivors with healthy women, as well as a review of all available studies on the subject, found no evidence that antiperspirants increase the risk of breast cancer.
Worrying about antiperspirants shouldn't distract women from addressing the real breast cancer risks, Gansler says, especially the ones they can control, like eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and limiting alcohol.
Antiperspirants and Alzheimer's Disease
Back in the 1960s, a few studies found high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. The research suddenly called into question the safety of everyday household items such as aluminum cans, antacids, and antiperspirants.
But the findings of these early studies weren’t replicated in later research, and experts have essentially ruled out aluminum as a possible cause of Alzheimer's.
"There was a lot of research that looked at the link between Alzheimer's and aluminum, and there hasn't been any definitive evidence to suggest there is a link," says Heather M. Snyder, PhD, senior associate director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association.
According to the experts interviewed for this story, the aluminum in antiperspirants doesn't even typically make its way into the body.
"The aluminum salts do not work as antiperspirants by being absorbed in the body. They work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in the sweat to form a physical plug... which is deposited in the sweat duct, producing a blockage in the areas that it's applied," says David Pariser, MD, professor of dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and past president of the American Academy of Dermatology. "Even [with] nicks from shaving, the amount is so negligible that it doesn't make a whole lot of scientific sense."
Antiperspirants and Kidney Disease
Concerns about antiperspirants and kidney disease were first raised many years ago, when dialysis patients were given a drug called aluminum hydroxide to help control high phosphorus levels in their blood. Because their kidneys weren't functioning properly, their bodies couldn't remove the aluminum fast enough, and it began accumulating. Scientists noticed that dialysis patients who had these high aluminum levels were more likely to develop dementia.
As a result, the FDA requires antiperspirant labels to carry a warning that reads, "Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease." Yet this warning is only meant for people whose kidneys are functioning at 30% or less.
In reality, it's almost impossible to absorb enough aluminum through the skin to harm the kidneys. "Unless you eat your stick or spray it into your mouth, your body can't absorb that much aluminum," says nephrologist Leslie Spry, MD, FACP, spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation.