Myth or Reality: Using Deodorants and Antiperspirants Causes Cancer
On February 4, World Cancer Day is observed in an effort to unite all parties involved in the fight against cancer under the common objective of reducing cancer worldwide.
कैंसर का इलाज संभव है यदि शुरुवात में ही इसकी पहचान हो सके #WorldCancerDay #SwasthaBharat#beatNCDs pic.twitter.com/mZLuKdSEkb— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) February 4, 2023
Who doesn’t like to smell good? Every person in the world wants to appear and smell their best, and that’s what drives the cosmetics industry. Whether it's makeup kits, creams, perfumes, or deodorants, every household consists of at least a few cosmetic applications to enhance one's features and fragrance.
But did you know that cosmetics are made up of synthetic substances, some of which can even be hazardous to your health? Products that are applied directly to the skin, like deodorants or antiperspirants, are alleged to be a major cause of cancer in the world, especially breast cancer in women.
Is there any truth to the correlation between cancer and using deodorants or antiperspirants? Today, we find out.
Read on to know if the notion that deodorants and antiperspirants cause cancer is a myth or reality.
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What are Deodorants and Antiperspirants?
Deodorants are substances that are applied to the skin to prevent or mask odours. They come in a variety of forms, like roll-ons, sticks, and sprays. Antiperspirants are similar to deodorants in that they cover bad smells, but antiperspirants, as the name suggests, also block or reduce sweating. Both deodorants and antiperspirants are most commonly applied in sweaty and odour-prone areas like the underarms and back. Due to deodorant’s direct application on the skin, manufacturers have to ensure the utmost safety for customers. However, deodorants and antiperspirants are still full of hundreds of chemicals.
What is Cancer and how is it Caused?
Cancer is a genetic anomaly that results in abnormal and uncontrollable cell growth. The exact cause of cancer remains unknown, but hereditary factors, smoking, an unhealthy lifestyle, carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), and radiation are some of the causes of cancer.
Cancer often results in lumps and tumours. However, not all tumours are cancerous or malignant, i.e., those that spread and infect other cells; some are benign as well. These tumours stay in their place and can be successfully treated.
Most types of cancer take several years to manifest.
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Can Deodorants and Antiperspirants Cause Cancer?
Deodorants and antiperspirants are laden with many chemicals, some of which can even be fatal in excess quantities. Cosmetics manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety of customers, but there are only so many ways to create a long-lasting fragrance in products.
Antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that block sweat ducts and reduce sweating. Aluminum is absorbed by the skin and can change the estrogen receptors of nearby breast cells. Most cases of breast cancer arise in the underarm region.
Deodorants and antiperspirants also contain parabens, chemicals used as preservatives in many cosmetic and food products. Parabens are preservatives that penetrate the skin and mimic estrogen in the body, disturbing the hormonal balance. Excess estrogen is linked to the development of breast cancer in women.
What do the studies say?
Many health pundits and scientists have theorised that the application of deodorants and antiperspirants causes cancer, especially breast cancer in women. However, to this day, no study has conclusively established a link between deodorant usage and cancer. Some of the most high-profile studies are referenced below.
An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving - PubMed
Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer - PubMed
Final Amended Report on the Safety Assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Benzylparaben as used in Cosmetic Products
Systematic review of potential health risks posed by pharmaceutical, occupational and consumer exposures to metallic and nanoscale aluminum, aluminum oxides, aluminum hydroxide and its soluble salts - PubMed
Cancer is not a modern disease. It was prevalent in humans and even animals way before the advent of cosmetics. The risk factors for cancer like radiation, smoking, and synthetic compounds have certainly increased exponentially in the past few decades. But that doesn’t mean that all man-made products are cancerous and we should go back to living like cavemen.
Almost no food or cosmetic product is chemical-free. In fact, packed foods contain more parabens than deodorants or antiperspirants. There are plenty of risks to using deodorants and antiperspirants, like irritation, staining, allergies, etc., but cancer is not one of them. No study has conclusively found a correlation between deodorant usage and cancer. So we can safely say for now that the view that using deodorants or antiperspirants causes cancer is a myth.
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