Is our deodorant Causing Breast Cancer?



For the most part, deodorant is something that we all apply daily. Sometimes we apply it more than once, too.  Cancer is hugely prominent in my family, and my Grandma has conquered breast cancer twice. She works for Stanford University Pathology and immunology, and actually created the test for tuberculosis. Anyways, my grandma was definitely concerned for me and the other young women in my family, so she sends us all aluminum-free deodorant. To this day, we all get little sticks of aluminum free deodorant in the mail from her every month or so. Although I appreciate the gesture, I prefer using normal deodorant, I have found that it has a

The deodorant my grandmother always sends me

The deodorant my grandmother always sends me  from here

much stronger odor block and keeps me from sweating more than I do when I use the aluminium-free one. My grandmother is convinced that using regular deodorant can lead to breast cancer, and she is an incredibly intelligent woman, so I finally decided to do some research and share it with you guys.


There is a lot of new information emerging about breast cancer, including the scary hypothesis that our antiperspirants or deodorants may be causing it. Apparently, these products can contain harmful chemicals that can be absorbed through our skin and consequently enter our body through any cuts on our skin. This journal, Antiperspirant Use and the Risk of Breast Cancer, theorizes that the chemicals in our deodorants, particularly aluminum, may be linked to breast cancer because they are applied in close approximately to our breasts frequently. Personally, I use regular deodorants because I think they are more effective than the aluminum-free ones from my grandma. We have been learning in class that we don’t know what could be killing us until it is too late, like in the case of smoking. No one knew smoking was bad for their health until everyone had lung cancer.  But, what if there was a real correlation between applying normal deodorant and breast cancer? Should I stop wearing normal deodorant? What if I am slowly sickening myself!

Aluminum is particularly concerning as the active ingredient in antiperspirants not because the compounds can be absorbed by the skin, but because once they are absorbed they can spark estrogen-like effects which are particularly dangerous when next to the breasts. Estrogen can promote the development of cancerous cells in breast tissue, as learned from this journal, Influence of Estrogen Plus Progestin on Breast Cancer and Mammography in Healthy Postmenopausal Women. Many scientists are starting to seriously theorize that many cases of breast cancer could be related to applying aluminium to areas near our breasts every day. In a nut shell, theses aluminum compounds could be contributing to the development of breast cancer in women.

Other concerning ingredients include parabens, which, in a different way than aluminum, mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and can lead to cancer.  It was only in 2004 when the idea that parabens could build up and cause breast cancer surfaced from a study was published as Significance of the Detection of Esters of P-hydroxybenzoic Acid (parabens) in Human Breast Tumours. In the case of this study, the Null hypothesis was that the parabens in deodorant did not cause breast tumors in women, and the alternative hypothesis was that the parabens in deodorant did cause breast tumors in women. With a low p-value (below .05), the researchers  rejected the null hypothesis, stating that there was a correlation between wearing deodorant and breast tumor development. While they did find a strong correlation between parabens and aluminum and breast tumors, there was only a weak correlation between these dangerous ingredients and breast cancer. The mechanism for increased breast tumors is still unclear because scientists can not 100% determine what is actually causing the formation of the breast tumors. This is similar to the common class example Andrew likes to use of lemons and scurvy; Sailors knew that eating lemons and oranges prevented scurvy, but had no idea why. Scientists have a strong hunch that aluminum and parabens can cause breast tumors and cancer, but do not have a clear mechanisms in place.

This really shocked me, but according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there have been no conclusive studies that can pin point a link between regular deodorant and the formation of breast tumors, and therefore the development of breast cancer. The FDA assures us that deodorant is safe for regular use, but if there have only been a few studies conducted, how can we be sure? Like Andrew said in class, the absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence. For now, I’m going to give that aluminum free deodorant a chance. What’s worse, sweating a little extra, or possibly giving myself breast cancer? In this case, I think I am going to play it safe and give grandma’s deodorant another try. I recommend that you do the same!


8 thoughts on “Is our deodorant Causing Breast Cancer?

  1. Maximilian Arthur Kesner

    This is a very well written and organized post. I liked how you related the blog to lecture material, such as the sailor/scurvy example that was discussed in class. I honestly never even thought there could be a correlation between deodorant and cancer. So that was quite surprising. I noticed your post was more oriented towards women, so I was curious to see if men would be affected in the same way. This article says that men are less likely to be at risk, because for the most part, we don’t shave our armpits. Shaving one’s armpits can lead to cuts, and as you mentioned, chemicals can enter the body through said cuts. Regardless, I don’t think I’m going to make the change because I sweat enough as it is, and I didn’t quite see a clear mechanism as to how deodorant actually causes the cancer.

  2. Ashton Blair Pinter

    My older sister is very big on being organic and staying as disease free as possible. She sometimes does not wear any deodorant at all because she believes that it can cause cancer. When she chooses to wear deoderant she uses a brand called Tom’s Natural Care, which is organic. She tries her hardest to convince my family and I to jump on the band wagon with her and use organic deodorant. I always just roll my eyes at her because there is no way I would ever run the risk of being more sweaty than normal with organic deodorant. After reading your article and learning about aluminum and parabens and how they are linked to cancerous tumors, I am beginning to think my sister might be right, just this once. Even though the mechanism is not fully clear, I think it is better to be than sorry. Hopefully this weekend I can go to the store and buy the deodorant that your Grandma buys for you! Thank you for writing this blog!

  3. Taylor Weinstein

    Since I am a women when I first saw this post I was hooked. I was wondering how is this possible? I would have never thought of this but I instantly wanted to know more. I like how you talked about the mechanisum in your post and stated it back to science is not 100% because nothing in science is. What do you think about this idea? Did you get concerned from this topic? Did you change your deodorant because of the problem? This reminded me on washing your hair. My mom told me that I don’t need to wash my hair everyday because it makes it much more oilly and I also heard that from my hair dresser as well. This article states that everyday you don’t have to wash your hair. There are many other factors stated in this article according to science that affect our hair and the amount of time to wash. So just like deodorant, hair washing is also a problem among females.
    (read to learn more about hair and when you should wash)

  4. Hannah Gluck

    This post is very relatable to me because I too am a girl and cancer is prominent in my family as well. Now a days its hard to believe what exactly causes cancer because it seems to be basically everything. I mean just read this. This article lists 20 strange things that can cause cancer including chips, Facebook, oral sex, and more. I do agree that if it is a small change that will not effect your daily life then it is worth changing but how are we supposed to avoid all of these little things. With the deodorant issue I feel that the change is so small that its worth it but other things like sun screen, x-rays, and phones are hard to avoid. Overall, I think some people just need to tone their precautions down. I cant live my whole life avoiding these strange things with the hopes that I wont get cancer. My advice, change the small things if you want but otherwise just live a healthy life because in the end thats the best you can do.

  5. Hannah Marni Stern

    Obviously, this is a very interesting and relatable post for any woman that uses deodorant (which I hope is all women). Your findings were interesting, and I enjoyed how you started it off with your personal introduction to the issue. Before your blog, I didn’t even know aluminum was in deodorant, so I looked more into it. I found here that the risk of breast cancer is only one of the things that aluminum free D.O. can prevent. Other benefits include a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s, healthier skin, and more balanced hormones. Maybe I’ll consider the switch after more scientific studies are done!

  6. Melanie Dawn Weltner

    Very well written blog! I like the connection you made to class and the personal story aspects of your post. It is cool to see a blog post on this topic because I myself have stopped using normal deodorants all together because I have always believed that they are terrible for your body. Afterall, not much good can come from clogging your sweat glands and denying your body the need to excrete sweat in order to keep your body’s temperature all in balance. I always figured it was bad for you but I never thought to the extent that you presented! Even if there is not a ton of evidence it still is enough for my anyone to reinforce why deodorant truly can wreak havoc on our bodies. Scary thought when it is a common everyday item for many people. Here is an article I found on some other ways deodorant could be harming your body and some alternatives to the normal everyday deodorant!

  7. Katrina Burka

    Hi Dana, your post immediately caught my attention. As a women myself, I’ve heard this hypothesis floating around the internet for a very long time and it is extremely concerning. Questions I have about this are if males deodorant has aluminum? Why do we not see “aluminum free” deodorant on male advertisements? Possibly because they don’t have it, but, I decided to look into it myself. Overall, a lot of mens deodorant was aluminum free, possibly why women are choosing to have the male scents over your grandmothers option. I’ve used guys deodorant before, and as long as you aren’t using Axe, you honestly can not tell the difference. I think you related this post really well to Andrews topics in class, I saw clear connections and it was a smooth read. I question I’m left pondering is if we should just stop wearing deodorant all together? If our bodies are naturally made to take care of us, they also monitor how much we sweat. If you rely on an outside source or product to regulate that body function, your body may just combat by reacting more. This is similar to the case of washing your hair too often, it actually makes your hair more oily. Smelly or not, I wonder when it is appropriate to go “all natural”. Here is a youtube link explaining how aluminum can cause cancer:

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