Antiperspirants and the cancer risk!

By Dr Janey

Deodorants and antiperspirants have become an essential part of our ‘cosmetic tool box’ for most men and women today. Unthinkingly, we apply it to our underarms at least once a day (and several times daily for some), and then happily go on our way thinking that we have done a good thing in ‘protecting’ ourselves from sweating and bodily odours.

However, in doing so we fail to consider the reasons behind these essential natural functions of our bodies and how they are working constantly on our behalf. By suppressing these functions we in fact may be doing real harm. Added to that, various chemical ingredients in these products have been shown to demonstrate concerning links with certain diseases, breast cancer being one of them.

So let’s start by looking a little closer at our sweat glands and the purpose they serve….

We are gifted with 2 types of sweat glands: eccrine glands in our feet, hands and forehead and apocrine glands in the underarms and groin region. The purpose of our sweat glands, as the name would suggest, is to promote sweating and in doing so, to cool the body while also crucially serving as an outlet for toxins. These glands are very effective in what they do, however when they are inhibited from carrying out these basic functions as they are when we apply deodorant/antiperspirant, there are inevitably consequences.

Bodily sweat in itself has no odour. However, if unable to evaporate through wearing tightly fitting, synthetic clothes, bacteria will be attracted to help break down the excessive sweat not removed naturally by fresh air. This will leave a mildly unpleasant odour. The somewhat more unpleasant body odour only occurs when large amounts of toxic waste is excreted through these same sweat pores attracting bacteria that emit foul-smelling gases while attempting to break down these toxins.

Our skin is the largest ‘organ’ of our body serving as a crucial protective interface between our tissues and organs, and the external world. It also serves a vital role, in combination with our other crucial organs of elimination, namely the colon, liver and kidneys, in maintaining homeostasis in our body by ridding itself of normal breakdown products of cell metabolism and toxins.

Unpleasant sweaty odours will only ever become a problem when:

  1. the other organs of elimination (colon, liver and kidneys) have become overburdened with a toxic overload thus forcing toxins to be forced out through the skin
  2. we consume large amounts of acidic foods such as animal proteins (ie meat and dairy), trans fats and refined foods which generate toxins that the body will be forced to expel
  3. we exacerbate the above 2 points by wearing closely fitted, synthetic clothes

Because cancer is essentially a toxic crisis at the cellular level, and the use of deodorants and antiperspirants impedes the release of toxins from these outlets, the long term reliance on these products needs to be questioned in the overall approach to preventing disease, including cancer.

Relying on deodorants and antiperspirants to mask body odours is akin to the proverbial ‘band aid’ treatment. By doing so, we are ignoring the root cause of body odour while covering up the symptoms with sweet smelling chemical frangrances!  And unfortunately, as is always the case when we employ tactics of masking the real issue, greater health problems can present at a later stage!

While we have mentioned the issue of deodorants and antiperspirants being important in suppressing the body’s natural wisdom in shedding toxins which in itself would warrant serious consideration of the use of these products, the other important aspect to take into account is that both of these products frequently contain parabens and/or aluminium in various forms.  These have repeatedly demonstrated links to various health issues, including breast cancer.

deodorant-toxins 2

Let’s first elaborate on the 2 different products under discussion:

Deodorants reduce body odours by the use of a germicide which kills the bacteria that are attracted to break down toxins in the excreted sweat. In addition, they contain various perfumes to mask the smell of the germicide. They also contain parabens.

Antiperspirants work differently by preventing sweating. They do this through the use of aluminium most commonly as aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate or aluminium zirconium. These various aluminium salts act by combining with proteins in the sweat to block the pores and thus prevent sweating. Most antiperspirants also contain parabens.


Now let’s deal with each of these two compounds; aluminium and parabens.

Aluminium: While absorption of aluminium can occur by ingesting it in contaminated food and water, absorption through the skin has been found to be more significant. It is not new that aluminium has been shown to be a neurotoxin; that is, it is damaging to nerve and brain tissue. In fact this was first proven back in 1886, long before its use in antiperspirants. Numerous studies have since shown the causal link to several neurological conditions, and most notably Alzheimer’s. In fact one study showed that the use of aluminium containing antiperspirants was responsible for a 60% increased risk of Alzheimer’s!

With respect to breast cancer; P Darbre Ph D, states that aluminium is “capable of causing both DNA alterations and epigenetic effects…..consistent with a potential role in breast cancer”. In addition, she states that aluminium “can interfere with the function of oestrogen receptors of MCF7 human breast cells”. Both of these mechanisms of action are proven pathways in the formation of cancer cells.

Parabens: These compounds mimic oestrogens. As discussed in the article entitled ‘The crucial role of oestrogens on breast cancer’ (also available on this site), oestrogen mimickers are cause for concern in view of the fact that our life-time exposure to oestrogens has been shown to be directly proportional to our risk of breast cancer.

Added to this, parabens applied to the body can be absorbed through the skin. In fact in one study conducted by Darbre in which 20 breast cancer tumours were tested, 18 were positive for parabens!

In addition, the area of the breast referred to as the upper outer quadrant (UOQ) that being the quarter of the breast tissue closest to the underarm region (and therefore the first area to absorb toxins) has been showing an increasing trend in the percentage of tumours of the breast in line with the increased use of deodorants and antiperspirants as the following figures demonstrate:

  • 1936: 21% of tumours were found in the UOQ;
  • 1947-1967: this increased to 43-48%
  • 1994: this had further increased to 60.7% of breast tumours in the UOQ

When one considers the close association of the breast tissue and the sweat glands of the underarms, it is not surprising that the application of these toxic compounds (with established absorbability by the skin), should create health issues in the breast such as cancer. This situation is further exacerbated when the excretion of these toxic compounds is hampered by the very products that apply them!

deodorant - parabens

So how can we avoid these products that potentially threaten our health

  1. Discontinue the products that contribute to a toxin build-up
  2. Wash the underarms with natural soap and water
  3. Avoid too many acidic food types such as meat, dairy and refined foods which will be a constant source of toxins that need to be expelled
  4. Cleanse the body by employing regular liver and colon cleanses that reduce the toxic load on the body, and hence the need to expel excess toxins through the skin and sweat glands
  5. If required, use natural deodorants that contain neither parabens nor aluminium or use natural deodorant stones
  6. Choose loose-fitting natural fabrics


In summary; by exercising choices that serve to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals while working in harmony with our body’s natural wisdom, we effortlessly enhance our immediate and long term health while reducing our risk to cancer!

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