Is Deodorant Toxic? Antiperspirants May Cause Cancer, Researchers Split

With growing concerns over potentially toxic ingredients, such as parabens and aluminum, in deodorant and antiperspirant products, consumers are asking if their personal hygiene products could be causing cancer or other negative health effects. Though a growing number of consumers are demanding answers in regards to the chemical cocktails used in their personal products and cosmetics, researchers are split on the potential health hazards associated with the products.

Time reports that researchers, oncologists, and the FDA are split on the safety of deodorant and antiperspirant products that contain potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens and aluminum. According to the compilation of studies, many researchers feel that there is no hard evidence that deodorant can cause cancer or other ill side effects. However, there is cause for concern. A number of scientists and oncologists are calling for more research to be performed in regards to the ingredients in question and for important questions to be answered once and for all.

Dr. Philippa Darbre, an oncologist at the University of Reading in the U.K., is one doctor who is concerned about the potential correlation between deodorant and breast cancer. Dabre is the head researcher behind more than 30 research papers on potentially harmful substances included in personal care products, including deodorant. Dabre says that many of the ingredients included in deodorant and personal care items are concerning on their own. However, she questions whether the risk is increased when combined. She notes it is difficult to assess the health risks of these chemical cocktails as they have not fully been researched when combined. For example, she notes that many women who suffer with breast cancer also have parabens in the surrounding breast tissue. However, how the parabens got there are debatable, and the research does not say conclusively that the parabens were responsible for the breast cancer. Therefore, Dabre says more research needs to be done in the area of personal care products and their ingredients to determine safety.

Dabre isn’t alone in her suspicions. Dr. Philip Harvey, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, notes that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” and more research needs to be done. Harvey points out that parabens and aluminum are of a real concern as they are “estrogenic” chemicals. This means they interact with the body’s hormones and “significantly add to estrogenic burdens.” This could account for the breast cancer correlation, as deodorant is applied to the underarms and would have almost a “direct route” into the breast tissue.

Despite concerns, the FDA claims that the products are safe and that they will continue to evaluate new evidence as it is made available.

“FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public.”

The American Cancer Society agrees noting that no “strong epidemiologic studies” exist in regards to deodorant causing cancer.

“There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim.”

What do you think? Is more research needed to determine the safety of deodorant and antiperspirant products?

[Image Credit: Flickr CC / Clean Wal-Mart]