a woman wearing deodorant

Do Antiperspirants Cause Cancer?

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death, and several times throughout humanity’s history we have discovered that items we commonly use in everyday life can increase the risk for this disease. Currently, the commonly used item under heightened scrutiny is antiperspirant deodorant. There is no lack of supporters for the idea that it causes cancer, but is there evidence to back this claim up? In this article, we’ll look at the specific concerns raised about antiperspirants as well as what scientific research has to say about this debate.

The Claim

Various websites across the internet have made the claim that using antiperspirants increase a person’s risk for cancer—more specifically they increase the risk of breast cancer in women. The reasoning behind this claim is that since this type of deodorant prevents sweating, the “toxins” that would normally be excreted being to accumulate and invade the lymph nodes and breasts, which can allegedly lead to the development of cancerous cells. Additionally, most antiperspirants use an aluminum-based compound to plug the skin’s pores to prevent sweating, and some people believe that this aluminum is absorbed into the body, where it can begin to cause cancerous cells to develop as well.

The Evidence

The assertion that antiperspirants cause breast cancer may sound reasonable enough, considering that most women who develop the disease have tumors occur in the area of the breast nearest to the underarm. However, there are currently no accepted scientific studies that confirm this hypothesis, and several major medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, have denied a link between the two. In addition to this, there are several studies that actually refute the claim. In a 2002 study published by The Journal of Applied Toxicology, researchers studied almost 2,000 women—about 50% of which suffered from breast cancer. Their findings revealed no definitive link between the use of antiperspirants and an increased risk of the disease.

The Need for Further Research

Scientific consensus is not an unchanging thing, and most researchers in the field support subjecting this important topic to further research. Although they do not currently believe the hypothesis to be true, this opinion may need to be amended in the future as new studies about the effects of antiperspirant and the development of cancer emerge. 

Last Updated: February 19, 2015