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Link Between Deodorant and Cancer Gains Ground

Link Between Deodorant and Cancer Gains Ground

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingThere is renewed concern over a possible link between the use of antiperspirants and breast cancer. In the past, the FDA has labeled this story an urban myth; even though the agency says antiperspirants are safe and effective, they also appear to be shifting their position.

Read the list of ingredients in an antiperspirant and one thing is certain, you'll find aluminum. It's the active ingredient that keeps you dry, and it's what's been fueling the breast cancer-antiperspirant debate for years. Some believe there is a link between antiperspirants, underarm shaving and some breast cancers.

In research published two years ago, a study of more than 400 breast cancer survivors found the more frequently these women shaved and used antiperspirants, and the earlier they began these habits, the sooner they got breast cancer.

Another study published this year suggests aluminum acts like the hormone estrogen and it questions whether long-term exposure to products containing low levels of aluminum - like an antiperspirant - may increase the risk of breast cancer.

The billion-dollar cosmetics industry disagrees, saying the products are safe. Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute and the FDA say more research is needed to definitively answer the question.

So what should women do now?

Dr. Laura Esserman: "I don't think there's any evidence antiperspirants are the smoking gun."

Dr. Laura Esserman is Director of the UCSF Breast Care Center

Dr. Laura Esserman: "But it's just like anything else that you would take, any medicine, any chemical agent, you should ask yourself, 'Do I really need this?'"

And there are alternatives, like deodorants. Deodorants are designed to cover up odors. Unlike antiperspirants they do not contain aluminum, but they don't block sweat either.

And while some people swear by natural products, others say they just don't work as well.

As far as shaving one's armpits, Dr. Kim Mulvihill says it's simply not known whether tears in the follicles might allow chemicals into the body, thereby increasing one's chances of getting breast cancer. Since breast cancer is a complex disease, more research is needed.

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