Experts suggest a link between the use of deodorants and breast cancer
The Scotsman | September 4, 2007
NEW research has suggested a potential link between the use of deodorants and breast cancer.
A study at Keele University looked at tumour samples from 17 breast cancer patients, measuring levels of aluminium - which is used as an antiperspirant in most deodorants - in the tissue.
The researchers found the patients had "significantly higher" levels of aluminium in the underarm region of the breast where the products were used than in other parts of the breast. But the team, led by Dr Chris Exley, said they could not prove a link between the use of deodorants and breast cancer.
Charities also said there was no good evidence to suggest the products were a cause of cancer.
The latest study, published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, tested the tumours of patients having mastectomies at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, finding higher levels of aluminium in the underarm area. Dr Exley said they could not say whether the aluminium found came from the antiperspirant or from other sources.
Aluminium - the third most naturally abundant element in the environment - is also found in food, water, pharmaceuticals and many consumer products.
Dr Exley also admitted that they could not definitely link deodorants and breast cancer, as tumours may attract metal in the tissue to them rather than being the cause of the tumour in the first place. Dr Exley said: "You could make a leap of faith that the two could be linked. It is only on 17 individuals, but the data we have showing a higher distribution of aluminium in the underarm is statistically significant."
Aluminium is used as an antiperspirant to stop the skin from sweating. Previous studies in animals have linked the compound to cancer, but research involving cosmetic products has proved controversial.
Leading cancer charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer expressed doubts about the latest study. Dr Sarah Cant, senior information officer at the charity, said: "There is no reliable scientific evidence to suggest a link between deodorant or antiperspirant use and breast cancer.
"A large number of scientific studies have investigated breast cancer risk factors. However, there is no good evidence to suggest that either deodorant or antiperspirant use or exposure to aluminium can increase the risk of developing this disease. This very small study does not provide any further proof."
Dr Cant said breast cancer was a complex disease and its causes were unknown for the majority of the 44,000 women diagnosed in the UK each year.
Antonia Dean, a clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, pointed out that the study had not established where the aluminium in the tumour came from, whether it may have contributed to the development of the disease or whether similar levels could be found in women who do not have breast cancer.
"Further, large-scale studies are needed on this issue to enable women to make an informed choice about aluminium-containing products," she said.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, also disputed the relevance of the research and said it could cause unnecessary worry among those who use deodorants.
A spokesman said: "The overwhelming mass of safety data available does not indicate any risk of harmful effects from using any cosmetic products that contain aluminium. Antiperspirants and deodorants are designed to work on the surface of the skin, and so the products would not work if there was a significant amount absorbed. Published literature and industry studies demonstrate a negligible potential for aluminium salts to penetrate the skin. If a small amount were absorbed, this would be tiny in comparison to the amounts we consume in the food we eat daily."
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