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In the constant search for breast cancer cause-and-effect, antiperspirants have been one of a number of scapegoats. Antiperspirants, say their critics, contain harmful substances that can be absorbed by the skin or enter the body through nicks and cuts caused by shaving. But despite the rumors about breast cancer and antiperspirants, research shows that throwing your sticks and roll-ons out the window isn't likely to affect your cancer risk. Here is what four leading cancer organizations have to say: "These claims are largely untrue," states the American Cancer Society. "There is no good scientific evidence to support this claim. The American Cancer Society is not aware of any strong epidemiologic studies reporting a statistical association between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use. To the contrary, a carefully-designed epidemiologic study of this issue published in 2002 compared 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women without the disease and found no relationship between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, deodorant use, or underarm shaving."
Similarly, according to the Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation (the well-known breast cancer advocacy organization that administers "The Race for the Cure" on Mother’s Day each year), "extensive research regarding the development of breast cancer shows no association with antiperspirant use. Research does show that the most significant risk factors for developing breast cancer are being female and getting old."
The National Cancer Institute has also weighed in on the issue of antiperspirants and breast cancer. The Institute’s response is: "The reports have suggested that these products contain harmful substances, which can be absorbed through the skin or enter the body through nicks caused by shaving. Some scientists have also proposed that certain ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants may be related to breast cancer because they are applied frequently to an area next to the breast. However, researchers at the National Cancer Institute are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer."
And finally, we found that BreastCancer.org (a non-profit dedicated to “providing reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer”) says "Intriguing as it is to consider whether antiperspirants and breast cancer are linked — there are no studies that prove any connection. While we'd all like to identify the single cause of breast cancer so that we could all avoid getting the disease, antiperspirants are simply not a cause of breast cancer."
Rather than abandoning the use of antiperspirants (an unappealing option for hyperhidrosis sufferers), the American Cancer Society recommends lifestyle and other proactive choices to help reduce your risk of breast cancer. For instance, a woman at average risk for breast cancer might reduce her risk somewhat by avoiding alcohol, exercising regularly, and staying slim. Giving birth to several children and breastfeeding them for several months also appears to lower breast cancer risks. Early detection of breast cancer plays a significant role in outcomes so it’s very important for all women to follow the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for finding breast cancer early.
If you have additional concerns about your cancer risk, please talk to your doctor about risk factors and how to limit them as well as about how to perform breast self exams and if, when, and how often you should have mammograms and other medical breast exams.
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