Antiperspirants & Breast Cancer
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | July 17, 2001

Another email warning has been making the rounds lately. This one concerns antiperspirants and breast cancer. Naturally, anyone reading this would become alarmed. Typical of these types of scary emails, the author takes a sliver of truth and creates a theory-completely unfounded in facts-but a theory about how antiperspirants cause breast cancer.

The basic premise of the theory is this: Antiperspirants work by blocking pores under the arm. This reduces perspiration (thus the term ANTIperspirant). The theory is that the blocked pores allow toxins to build up close to breast tissue where they cause abnormal cells to develop, resulting in a tumor.

While it seems to make sense, your body doesn't work that way. While some toxins are released from pores, the pores are not a major excretory site for toxins.

The site of most breast cancers is the outside quadrant. The email suggests that this is because of the proximity to the clogged pores. The real reason is that there is simply more breast tissue near the armpit than near the midline of the body. Consider the odds-more tissue means there are more cells, and thus more opportunities for abnormal cells to develop. The email also says that women get breast cancer more than men because women use more antiperspirants than men (men favor deodorant instead). Once again, look at the odds-more women get breast cancer because they have more breast tissue than men, not because they use antiperspirants.

We did a MEDLINE search on whether there was any research to even suggest a relationship between antiperspirants and breast cancer. The search came back with nothing other than a letter to a physician, printed in a journal, asking about an email a woman got about-you guessed it-antiperspirants causing breast cancer.

When it comes to antiperspirants, it's simply a matter of personal preference. Use them if you like or don't use them if you don't like them. But don't fear using them because of an email that's just another urban legend.
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