Thursday, 14 February 2013

Does Aluminium in Antiperspirants cause Breast Cancer?

MooGoo Skin Care
Something smells funny here...
Many big companies and manufacturers would tell you the supposed links between aluminium antiperspirants and health concerns such as breast cancer are just 'myths'. If you jump onto Google, you would find many results that say the same thing. However, if you searched this on Google Scholar (Google's broad library of scholarly literature, published journals and peer-reviewed studies) you will find many studies that do show links between aluminium based antiperspirants and breast cancer. It is very difficult to "prove" this link as many other lifestyle factors and genetic variations among individuals are involved, but it is certainly more than a 'myth'. So who must we believe??? The fact that these publications suggest a link does exist is a bit concerning. In this post I will delve into each side of the argument to hopefully help you make an informed decision as to what to believe. 


How do Aluminium-based Antiperspirants work?

Firstly, there are contradictory explanations as to how aluminium-based antiperspirants actually work. Whose explanation do you believe?

According to the manufacturer...

"[Aluminium salts] dissolve in the sweat or moisture on the skin surface of the armpit. This dissolved substance forms a gel, which creates a small temporary plug near the top of the sweat gland, significantly reducing the amount of sweat that is secreted to the skin surface."
Aluminium based antiperspirants linked to breast cancer
How antiperspirants work according to the manufacturers

However, on the other hand, this is how an antiperspirant works according to a dermatologist - Dr. Eric Hanson from the University of North Carolina's Department of Dermatology

The aluminium ions are taken into the cells that line the eccrine-gland ducts at the opening of the epidermis, the top layer of skin. When the aluminium ions are drawn into the cells, water passes in with them. As more water flows in, the cells begin to swell, squeezing the ducts closed so that sweat can't get out. 

Hmmm... so aluminium enters our bodies and swells the cells up. Why would manufacturers be reluctant to say that?


Does Aluminium accumulate in breast tissue?

According to the manufacturers, it does not. Consumer goods giant, Unilever, (they make Dove and Lynx antiperspirants FYI) says: 

"There is no evidence that they [aluminium salts] accumulate in the breast tissue, or that they can affect human DNA."

Yet once again, there is contradictory evidence that shows otherwise. A recent 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found:

"These results suggest that aluminium is not generically mutagenic, but similar to an activated oncogene, it induces proliferation stress, DSBs and senescence in normal mammary epithelial cells ... Our observations do not formally identify aluminium as a breast carcinogen, but challenge the safety ascribed to its widespread use in underarm cosmetics."

Similarly, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Inorganic Chemistry found aluminium is present in breast tissue: 

"We have confirmed the presence of aluminium in breast tissue and its possible regional distribution within the breast. Higher content of aluminium in the outer breast might be explained by this region's closer proximity to the underarm where the highest density of application of antiperspirant could be assumed. There is evidence that skin is permeable to aluminium when applied as antiperspirant ... We should not neglect the possibility that aluminium in breast tissue might contribute towards breast cancer."

So as well as illustrating there is a presence of aluminium in breast tissue, this study also refers to the fact that there may be a chance aluminium contributes towards breast cancer. This is not the only study that says so. According to the 2009 study Underarm Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer

MooGoo Skin Care
Breast Quadrants and Breast Cancers
"Clinical studies dating back decades report a disproportionately high number of female breast cancers originating in the upper quadrant of the breast, and although this is attributed to a greater amount of epithelial tissue in that region, it is also the area to which underarm cosmetic products are applied."


"Frequency and earlier onset of antiperspirant/deodorant usage with underarm shaving were associated with an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis. Combined habits are likely for this earlier age of diagnosis." 

It should be noted though that this study is controversial. It has been argued that younger women tend to shave under their arms more than older women, and so this may skew the results. 

MooGoo Skin Care
DNA Mutation
The 2005 study Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry made it clear that "Aluminium is known to have a genotoxic profile, capable of causing both DNA alterations and epigenetic effects, and this would be consistent with a potential role in breast cancer if such effects occurred in breast cells."

Hmm... Aluminium is known to have a genotoxic profile (something that is known to damage DNA, therefore causing mutations)? This doesn't sound like something I'd want lodged inside my cells. There are countless other studies that say the same thing. I urge you to jump onto Google scholar and have a look yourself. 


Who do you believe?

I am not saying that antiperspirant usage causes breast cancer. If this had been proved true, it would be all over the news. But I do find it very interesting how contrasting the two viewpoints are between the manufacturers and the peer-reviewed studies. I also find it a bit concerning to see that there is evidence that shows a link exists. In the end the decision is up to you. Who do you believe?

According to Unilever

"[There is no] scientific evidence of a link between antiperspirant or deodorant use and breast cancer risk."

That's coming from Unilever, a company whose personal care sales are in the billions. So basically there is a lot at stake if it was proven that aluminium-based antiperspirants cause breast cancer. 

Hmm... this researching isn't
toooooo bad at all. 
If you are comfortable with Aluminium in your armpits, then antiperspirants are best. They are effective and they leave no marks. If you prefer to go aluminium free then I don't blame you! Our MooGoo Fresh Milk Deodorant is one of our best selling products. Of course it doesn't suit everyone and there are plenty of other aluminium free deodorant options out there. It's a very complicated topic, I know. Hopefully this blog has at least helped some of you become more aware of the contradictory beliefs out there and has urged you to do some research for yourself. Don't take what the big companies say as truth. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please pop them in the comments section below. :) 

by Daniella De Azevedo 

PS. this link was passed onto me with some beautiful inspiring quotes about breast cancer from celebrities who battled the disease. Thought I'd share :) http://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer/quotes 


References: 

Discovery Fit & Health. (2013). What is in an antiperspirant that stops sweat? Retrieved from http://health.howstuffworks.com  
Exley, C. & Charles, L. * Barr, L. & Martin, C. & Polwart, A. & Darbre, P. (2007) Aluminium in human breast tissue. Retrieved from http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=19051992
Darbre, P. (2009). Underarm antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797685/pdf/bcr2424.pdf  
McGrath, K. (2003). An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com   
Darbre, P. (2005). Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com  
Unilever. (2013). Antiperspirant Safety. Retrieved from http://www.unilever.com 
Sappino, A. & Buser, R. & Lesne, L. & Gimelli, S. & Bena, F. & Belin, D. & Madriota, S. (2012). Aluminium chloride promotes anchorage-independent growth in humanmammary epithelial cells. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com 

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post! It's very interesting and informative.

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    1. Hi Alison. My pleasure. I'm glad the info helped. :) It just goes to show that we should always do a bit of research of our own and not take what the big companies say as truth all the time.

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  2. 3 mothers in my daughter's year at school have contracted breast cancer and two have died - we're talking women in their 30s and early 40s. Now I'm not linking this to antiperspirant use, but to me it seems that there is something environmental causing such a dramatic rise in the number of tragic cases in younger and younger women. It could be in food, in cleaning chemicals, in cosmetics or a combination of many things. So I started looking into reducing the amount of chemicals in my family's lives as much as possible. For example, my daughter's school is insisting the Year 6 girls use deodorant (11 year olds). My daughter doesn't even smell yet so I wasn't about to hand her a can of aluminium. Really, even if it is safe, it's a potential risk that's easy to avoid. She LOVES the Moogoo deodorant and I've started using it myself. OK, it might not handle a 5km run in the summer but day-to-day it's wonderful. I can also highly recommend using it with sweat guards (such as Sweax) for closer fitting clothes or clothes that tend to show sweat marks.

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    1. Hi JosieJo2000 :) It is so sad to hear about all the cases of women being diagnosed with breast cancer. I couldn't agree with you more in that there is definitely something out there causing an increase. When I had a look at the research behind the link between aluminium and breast cancer, it completely put me off aluminium antiperspirants. However, like you said, it could be anything causing this increase. I think reducing the amount of chemicals we are using in our day-to-day activities like you and your family are doing is the safest thing we can do. It's wonderful to hear that the MooGoo deodorant has been working well for your daughter. :) I use it day-to-day and it seems to work well for me even during my soccer games which is a bonus. :) There are plenty of aluminium free options out there though so I highly recommend to everyone to opt for these rather than the aluminium based ones. Like you said - it's a potential risk that's SO easy to avoid.

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