While there will always be breast cancer myths floating around the Internet, one of the most pervasive rumors says that using deodorant or antiperspirants causes breast cancer. Deodorants contain chemicals, and we apply these chemicals in very close proximity to the breast, so it is a natural question to ask if deodorants cause breast cancer.

Is it true? In a word, no. As the National Cancer Institute says, “There is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.”

Is it false? Well, the jury is still out on that one. There may be no conclusive research, but there are some conflicting studies about certain chemicals contained in deodorants and their place on the list of possible breast cancer risk factors.

Let’s look in a little more detail at these rumors swirling around deodorants, antiperspirants, aluminum, parabens, and breast cancer:

Difference Between Antiperspirants and Deodorants

First of all, let’s clarify the difference between antiperspirants and deodorants. Antiperspirants prevent underarm sweat by temporarily blocking the pores with aluminum compounds. Deodorant doesn’t reduce sweat, but instead neutralizes body odor by targeting the bacteria that live in our armpits.

Antiperspirants, Aluminum and Breast Cancer

Some women are concerned that aluminum causes breast cancer, and aluminums are the primary active ingredients in antiperspirants. The concern stems from the way aluminum compounds can influence estrogen receptors in our breast cells, and the established link between breast cancer and  estrogen levels in the body.

What Are Parabens?

Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives in a very high number of everyday products. From make-up and deodorant to toothpaste and pharmaceuticals, your cabinets are likely full of paraben-laced products, unless you make a conscious effort to avoid them. Much like BPA, there are concerns that these high levels of exposure to parabens might lead to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Do Parabens Cause Cancer?

Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, so the worry is that this will have the same affect as increasing estrogen levels: namely, increasing the risk for some types of breast cancer. The entire breast cancer and deodorant rumor seemed to begin with a 2002 study that reported parabens were found in 18 of 20 tissue samples from breast cancer tumors.

However, the study didn’t test healthy breast tissue to see if there was a difference in paraben levels between cancerous and cancer-free tissue. Two other studies point to the disproportionately high number of tumors occurring in the upper quadrant of the breast, closest to underarm, as possible evidence of a link. At this point, the jury is still out on whether parabens cause breast cancer, but most scientists agree that this is a very important topic for future research since we are so highly exposed to parabens in our everyday lives.

Should I Stop Wearing Deodorant?

All this conflicting research can be confusing and scary, but don’t forget: we already know so many ways that will definitely improve our breast health! Eat a cancer-fighting diet and exercise regularly to ward off obesity. Avoid known carcinogens, which means don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess. And make sure to follow our breast cancer early detection plan.

All of these are proven ways to help keep you healthy and reduce your risk for breast cancer. But if you’d rather be safe than sorry (but still fresh and clean), there are many paraben-free deodorants available at your local natural foods store.

What kinds of choices do you make in your daily life for your best breast health?