Are Deodorants Really Linked to Breast Cancer?
In the US, about one in every eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in the course of her lifetime. These type of shocking statistics make most of us question what it is that we could be doing that is potentially contributing to negative health effects.
One such product that has come into question in relation to breast cancer is deodorants – are they putting us at risk? Let’s take a deeper look into how your deodorant could be affecting your body.
Where Did the Link Between Deodorant and Cancer Come From?
Back in 2001 a study was conducted putting forth the hypothesis that breast cancer and underarm products could be related. The logic was as follows:
- The skin in this area is very thin and porous
- This means that potentially, your body could be absorbing a higher amount of cosmetic ingredients into the body.
- In addition, this is an area that is regularly shaved by women, which also opens the body up to more opportunities for ingredients to enter directly into the bloodstream.
Now, when scientists began to dive a little bit deeper into this idea, they had to start thinking about what specifically about deodorant could possibly be causing breast cancer. For the most part, deodorant is simply made of ingredients that try to keep you dry and smelling good. However, after antiperspirants were invented, scientists thought that this could be the cause of negative reactions within the body.
Deodorant Vs. Antiperspirant: What’s the Difference?
Let’s break down exactly what the differences between deodorant and antiperspirants are. First, as we stated, deodorants are mainly supposed to be used to make your underarm area smell good and potentially kill some odor causing bacteria that linger on the surface of your skin.
On the other hand, the job of antiperspirants is to actually stop you from getting sweaty in the first place. It was originally thought that sweat was the cause of all that underarm odor, when actually it’s the interaction of your underarm sweat and bacteria that is hiding in hard to reach areas in your armpits. As we go about our daily lives, bacteria finds its way into crevices and small areas all around our body. Usually, when we wash our bodies, the bacteria is washed away, but it’s quite difficult to get all of the bacteria off of your skin, especially the little nooks and crannies of your armpit. When you start to sweat and that liquid mixes with bacteria, you then have a smell. So, in an attempt to stop the body from smelling, we tried to get it to stop sweating. An effective antiperspirant ingredient is aluminum.
The Truth About Aluminium and Estrogen
Scientists found that when absorbed by the body, aluminium interacted with the body’s estrogen receptors. If receptors in the breasts are blocked or interfered with in any way, this could throw off the body’s production of healthy amounts of estrogen. Scientists had also found that the amount of estrogen in the body was also directly linked to breast cancer, this was certain. Breast cancer patients had been tested for estrogen levels and those that had invasive breast cancer were found to have larger amounts of estrogen in the body.
However, as the study of aluminium progressed researchers found that aluminium isn’t absorbed by the body in large quantities. In fact, only about 0.012% of aluminium in antiperspirants was actually absorbed into the body and any remaining aluminium was expelled. This small amount of aluminium found in the body, although it does have a slight estrogen-like effect, was just simply not enough of a reaction to cause breast cancer.
As it stands today, studies are still being conducted regarding antiperspirants and cancer. Over the last 16 years, results have come back as inconclusive. This doesn’t necessarily mean that aluminium is not playing some small part in negative health effects. Although, at this time, there is no link that has been proven between the two. It seems that there is just not enough aluminium in antiperspirants to have a significant effect on women’s breast health.
Should I Avoid Aluminium in Antiperspirants?
Aluminium antiperspirants are much stronger than traditional deodorants in that they are trying to stop you from sweating (or from sweating so much). As a result, many individuals have experienced irritation at the introduction of aluminium on the outside of their skin. Those who have sensitive skin or are prone to allergic reactions may benefit from seeking out other types of deodorants or antiperspirants that do not contain aluminium.
As always, if you’d prefer to be on the safe side, it’s never a bad idea to try and go with a more natural option, just for the sake of keeping your skin comfortable. Not to mention, you will always have peace of mind knowing exactly what ingredients are being put on your skin and being absorbed into your body.
Natural deodorants usually come with a much smaller ingredient list and usually contain plant ingredients that are much softer on the skin. Look for things like arrowroot powder and baking soda, which are great sweat absorbers. Natural oils like coconut oil, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil are also gentle on the underarm area, but can help to keep you fresh in combination with natural scents.
It’s natural (no pun intended) to have some doubts about ingredients like aluminium in your cosmetics. As we explained, for the time being, there is no solid evidence that has been able to link aluminium antiperspirants to breast cancer. However, you should know that those aren’t the only way to stay dry and keep your pits fresh. There are so many natural deodorant options out there that might work just as well as the antiperspirant that you’re used to. Get out there and try some natural options, and you just might be surprised with how great they really are.