The link between deodorant and breast cancer

Not that long ago, you might have heard about an alarming concern with deodorant. People warned their friends through email and social media that these necessary antiperspirants cause breast cancer. Actually, some people even stopped using deodorant before this threat, such as Cameron Diaz who hasn’t worn it in years! Before ditching your deodorant, though, you should understand the full story behind the concerns about deodorant and breast cancer.

First, many people have worries about drugstore deodorants because of parabens. Recently, scientists performed a study which was published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology. The researchers took four samples of breast tissue from 40 women who had cancer. They found an interesting result.

After analyzing the tissue, they found parabens in as many as 99 percent of the tissue samples. Even further, the scientists detected at least 5 parabens in 60 percent of the samples. In addition, some patients did experience breast cancer that formed in the armpit area while others did not.

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With results such as these, you can see why both scientists and consumers are showing uncertainty. At the same time, this study doesn’t clearly link the parabens as a cause of the breast cancer.

Since the women experienced cancer in several locations, there also was no evidence that cancer resulted from paraben-containing deodorants. However, the results do warrant more research by scientists and health professionals.

Parabens: What Are They?

Essentially, parabens are synthetic ingredients used in many personal care products and even foods. Companies favor them because parabens come with a low cost and act as a preservative that protects against mold and bacterial growth.

Because parabens can be absorbed through the skin, however, these ingredients can easily get into a person’s bloodstream. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, researchers have found parabens in up to 99 percent of people in the US. Also, Scientific American states that up to 90 percent of common grocery products contain parabens, making it a hard synthetic to avoid.

The major reason for concern with these common ingredients is that parabens showcase weak estrogen-like qualities. Unbalanced levels of estrogen have shown to play a role in cancer, and parabens themselves may further cancer growth.

In one study, however, scientists actually grew breast cancer cells in a lab. Then, they combined parabens with another chemical to study the cancer’s reaction.

They found that the cancer did indeed grow with the combined effect of parabens and another chemical. While the research does prove that parabens can fuel the growth of cancer under the right conditions, it still does not directly link them as a carcinogen.

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In defense, many health experts contend that the level of parabens in food and beauty products is too low to directly cause cancer. Furthermore, the research does not show that paraben-containing deodorants can increase the risk for breast cancer.

How You Should Respond

So what should you take away from this research? Consider this:

If you have no other concerns about using drugstore deodorant, you do not need to toss out your usual brand. People have been using paraben-containing deodorants for decades with no known damaging health effects.

On the other hand, you could choose to avoid knowingly buying products with parabens as a safety net. One doctor from the Lankenau Medical Center in Pennsylvania, Marisa Weiss, MD, figures that it won’t hurt anything to stay on the safe side. Weiss personally avoids products with parabens, keeping her products as natural as possible.

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While parabens are undergoing some scrutiny lately, studies have not found a direct link to the low levels of parabens in deodorant and breast cancer. In fact, many deodorants have stopped using parabens as an ingredient, reducing the cause for concern anyway. If you still have uncertainties, you can choose more natural deodorants to stay on the safe side.

This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.