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
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!