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Breast Cancer And Antiperspirant Use

Q: Is there a link between using antiperspirants and breast cancer?

I thought I read somewhere that there may be a link between antiperspirants and some illnesses-- maybe cancer. Does this ring any bells with you or is it one of those "urban myths" or e-mail speculations?

--CVK, New Jersey.

Dr. Donnica:
We all get spam e-mails from time to time and have no trouble deleting them.  But what about the ones claiming to contain "life-saving medical information"?  Chances are, they are usually false or misleading, such as the popular e-mail message claiming that antiperspirants cause breast cancer.  This is entirely false:  there is NO connection between antiperspirants (or deodorants) and breast cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the Society for Women's Health Research, as well as many other organizations have tried to dispel this myth.  There is no evidence to support this claim.  Furthermore, all deodorant and antiperspirant products undergo vigorous testing and follow-up before they are approved by the FDA - and after they're approved, as well. 

This e-mail scare has anonymous origins. According to the Society for Women's Health Research, the original message claims that a "health seminar" linked the use of antiperspirants to breast cancer.  The e-mail claims that antiperspirants cause breast cancer by "preventing the body from purging toxins under the arm pit" and that the buildup of toxins in the lymph nodes will eventually cause breast cancer.   In fact, perspiration does not eliminate toxins:  there are no "toxins" in sweat.  Sweat is made up of water, sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Toxins cannot accumulate in lymph nodes, and breast cancer does not begin in the lymph nodes anyway.  The use of antiperspirants has never been considered a risk factor for breast cancer in any epidemiological study of the disease. 

The good news is that there is no truth to this myth. The bad news is that there are still many dangerous myths circulating about breast cancer. For more information about breast cancer myths on DrDonnica.com, click here. For more information on myths about antiperspirants, click here.

Several national organizations have weighed in on this issue. For more details, see:

Created: 2/14/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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