Antiperspirant ingredients and breast cancer
Antiperspirants are effective and safe to use on a regular basis. Their safety is evaluated by manufacturers and regulatory bodies before they are made available to the public.
Some newspaper or internet stories warn that antiperspirant use may be linked to breast cancer, however, cancer experts, charities and health authorities assert that there is no credible evidence to support this.
The FAQ section answers questions on antiperspirant / deodorant use and breast cancer.
Can aluminium in antiperspirants cause breast cancer?
Aluminium salts are a common ingredient in antiperspirants and help to control the flow of sweat to the skin surface.
There have been a number of research studies that look for a link between aluminium in antiperspirants and breast cancer. However, cancer experts, charities and health authorities assert that there is no convincing scientific evidence to support the claim that the risk of developing breast cancer increases with antiperspirant use. On the contrary, there is strong evidence to show that antiperspirants are safe and effective everyday products. In addition, the available scientific evidence suggests that very little of the aluminium in antiperspirants can cross the skin. aluminium is naturally present in soil and water, where it is taken up into food and therefore is present in a wide variety of foods and drinking water. Of the small amount absorbed into the body, the majority is rapidly excreted in urine.
Two studies, (Mannello 2011, Exley 2007) have found high levels of aluminium in women with breast cancer. 1,2 However, these studies do not prove any conclusive evidence of a link between aluminium contained in antiperspirants and breast cancer. Why not?
- The studies were carried out in a very small number of women (less than 20 women in each study) - this is not sufficient to draw reliable conclusions
- Even though aluminium was present in breast tissue, the amount in each woman was too variable to draw any conclusions
- Antiperspirant use in these women was not measured; given that the principle source of exposure to aluminium is in the diet, there was no indication that the aluminium originated from antiperspirant use
- Most importantly, the study provides no evidence that the presence of aluminium was the cause of the breast cancer tumour, or whether the presence of the tumour caused aluminium to accumulate in the breast tissue.
Another large comprehensive scientific study (Mirick, 2002), was set up to explore any possible links between antiperspirant use and breast cancer within a large group of women aged 20-74 years.3 The study compared the use of antiperspirants in women with breast cancer and another group who did not have cancer – the women were matched for age to enable reliable comparison. Both groups used antiperspirants in the same way. The study concluded that there was no increased risk of breast cancer in women who used antiperspirants, and amongst women who used antiperspirants after shaving, or even one hour after shaving.3
Expert view on antiperspirants and breast cancer
Scientists, health and cancer experts believe there is no credible link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer.
"There is no reliable scientific evidence to suggest a link between deodorant or antiperspirant use – both on their own and in combination with shaving – and breast cancer. A large number of scientific studies have investigated breast cancer risk factors, however there is no reliable evidence to suggest deodorant or antiperspirant use are two of them." - Dr Sarah Rawlings, Head of Policy and Information
"Various media reports have claimed that antiperspirants increase the risk for breast cancer, but the only scientific study which has looked directly at this question did not observe any association between antiperspirant use and breast cancer risk." - Dr Tim Key
"Scientists at the National Cancer Institute are not aware of any research to support a link between the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data to support the theory that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer. Thus, there appears to be no basis for this concern."
"There is no experimental or epidemiological evidence to support (a link between breast cancer and antiperspirants). Chemicals in products such as antiperspirants are tested thoroughly to assure their safety. Also, the claims about toxin accumulation are not consistent with scientific concepts of cancer development."
"The absence of any observed associations may help alleviate the concern of many that use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants could alter their risk for breast cancer."
Worried about breast cancer?
If you’re personally worried about breast cancer or concerned for a family member or friend, you can find out further information from the registered cancer charities and support groups below. It is also important to speak to your doctor, nurse or healthcare professional about any concerns you may have. They can provide you with further information and advice about breast cancer.
- Mannello F, et al. Analysis of aluminium content and iron homeostasis in nipple aspirate fluids from healthy women and breast cancer-affected patients.J Appl Toxicol. 2011 Feb 21. doi: 10.1002/jat.1641 Mirick DK, et al.
- Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002;94:1578–1580.
- Exley C, et al. Aluminium in human breast tissue. J Inorganic Biochem. 2007;101:1344–1346.