Do Antiperspirants Cause Cancer?

There is no clear link between antiperspirant use and cancer

Deodorant is something that you would never dream of skipping before leaving the house. Antiperspirants are some of the most popular personal care items. However, many people are concerned that some of their ingredients, specifically aluminum and parabens, could be linked to cancer, specifically breast cancer. Thankfully, research has not found a causal relationship, but they did have some interesting findings.

Family shopping for cosmetics

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Claims Linking Breast Cancer and Antiperspirants

You may have heard the claim that antiperspirant use can cause breast cancer. It is believed that the chemicals in antiperspirants can enter the body through tiny razor cuts from shaving. The chemicals could then deposit in the lymph nodes. When an antiperspirant keeps an individual from perspiring, it’s thought that the chemical toxins could build up and lead to the development of cancer in the breast.

According to the American Cancer Society, there is no strong evidence linking breast cancer to antiperspirant use. The ingredients from antiperspirants most likely do not reach the lymph nodes, and a lack of sweating would not trap toxins inside our bodies. 

What Studies Show About Ingredients

The concerns about cancer and antiperspirants stem from the ingredients used to make these products. Many skin and beauty products use parabens as preservatives, and they may mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Antiperspirants also contain aluminum salts that block our sweat glands when they dissolve on the skin. 

Aluminum Effects

Many commercial antiperspirants and deodorants contain aluminum as an active ingredient. Aluminum helps to prevent sweating by blocking the sweat glands to keep it from reaching the skin’s surface. There is a concern that the aluminum could be absorbed into the body and change the way that breast cells receive estrogen. It’s unclear though how much of the aluminum in our products is absorbed into our bodies. One study found that 0.012% of the aluminum in antiperspirants was absorbed. Additional studies have found that there is no difference in the amount of aluminum in cancerous breast tissue and healthy breast tissue. 

The aluminum content in antiperspirants should not affect your breast cancer risk. However, if you have compromised kidney health, ask your healthcare provider if you should avoid aluminum-containing products. If your kidneys are not able to eliminate the aluminum because of decreased function, these products may not be safe for you.

Paraben Effects

Parabens are chemicals that are used as preservatives in food and products. They’re often used in skin and beauty products. Taking in too much parabens could be concerning because parabens have estrogen-like properties. We know that estrogen can cause the cells in the breast to divide and multiply, and women with more estrogen are at higher risk for breast cancer. It’s unclear if parabens are strong enough to cause changes in the breast cells. It is estimated that natural estrogen in a woman’s body is thousands of times stronger than the weak properties of parabens. 

Most of us are exposed to parabens every day, and studies have found that 99% of people in the United States have parabens present in their urine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all paraben-containing products to list parabens on their labels. According to the FDA, most major brands of deodorant and antiperspirants do not contain parabens.

Why Breast Cancers Are Often Near the Armpit

One reason that people have believed that there is a connection between antiperspirant use and breast cancer is that many breast cancers start in breast tissue that is close to the underarms. This is more likely due to the fact that the breast tissue higher up in the chest is denser. Dense tissue is more likely to develop cancer, and it makes it harder to detect unusual growths during exams and mammograms. 

Does Shaving Affect Risk?

Shaving your underarms should not affect your cancer risk. It is possible for shaving to cause small cuts in the underarms. Using deodorant after shaving may lead to local irritation of the skin, but has not been linked to any serious conditions.

Does Sweating Affect Cancer-Causing Toxins?

Sweating is a way for our bodies to release heat and regulate temperature. It does not, however, clear out toxins. Our lymph nodes are responsible for clearing out bacteria and viruses from the body, but they don’t use our sweat glands to do that. When our bodies ingest or absorb a carcinogen or cancer-causing agent, they filter those toxins through the kidneys and liver. Toxins from the kidneys are excreted in the urine, and toxins from the liver are excreted in bowel movements. A lack of sweating would not cause our bodies to hang on to dangerous toxins.

A Word From Verywell

You may be feeling nervous about using an antiperspirant after hearing about possible cancer risks associated with the use of these products. It’s helpful to remember that the American Cancer Society stated that there is no such risks. Our bodies get rid of cancer-causing toxins through the kidneys and liver, not the sweat glands. If you have experienced irritation from your deodorant or have concerns about a breast lump, talk with your healthcare provider. 

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Penn Medicine. Is Deodorant Harmful for Your Health?

  2. American Cancer Society. Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk.

  3. National Cancer Institute. Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer.

Additional Reading

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.