Antiperspirant Awareness: It's Mostly No Sweat (cont.)

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the breast cancer-antiperspirant myth first appeared in the form of an e-mail in the 1990s, and continues to resurface and recirculate about every year or so. The false information suggests that antiperspirants contain harmful substances, which can be absorbed through the skin or can enter the body near the breasts through nicks in the skin caused by shaving. The e-mails also suggested that antiperspirants keep a person from "sweating out toxins," resulting in the spread of cancer-causing toxins via the lymph nodes.

But the NCI says that no existing scientific or medical evidence links the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants to the subsequent development of breast cancer. The FDA, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association agree. Razor nicks may increase the risk of skin infection, but not cancer.

According to the ACS, sweat glands are not connected to the lymph nodes. Most cancer-causing substances are removed by the kidneys, are released through urine or by the liver, and are eliminated with feces. The ACS says that lymph nodes may help to clear some toxins from the body, but they do not release these toxins through sweating. Sweat is not a significant route for eliminating toxins from the body.

And a study of 813 women with breast cancer and 703 women with no history of breast cancer, published in the October 2002 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer.

Some speculate that the myth could have been started by women being told not to wear antiperspirants or deodorants before a mammogram. They were told this, not for safety reasons, but because residue from these products appearing in the X-ray is often mistaken for an abnormality in the breast.


Last Editorial Review: 10/7/2005