Antiperspirants = Breast cancer?

Despite circulating rumours:
Antiperspirants do NOT cause breast cancer!

A common internet meme claims that antiperspirants cause breast cancer. This notorious and virulent rumour has been afloat since 1997. For over a decade it made thousands of people feel insecure. Women who were using antiperspirants or deodorants got terrified by this wicked hoax which disguised itself as an official eMail from a (fictitious) scientific employee of Merck Frosst Ltd., Canada. This employee, known as Elizabeth Morin, of course never existed.

Despite of all contrary facts that numerous university studies, health care associations, cancer institutes and health professionals gathered over the years and although a long-term study proofed that topical antiperspirants do not cause cancer (of any kind), the perfidious rumour still lives on, silently creeping through the endless discussions of the world wide web …

Read what leading cancer organisations, scientists and health professionals say:

The whole rumour has been officially pronounced H.O.A.X.
You can find it at urbanlegends.about.com.

Origins of the breast cancer myth:

A common phrase says „Every rumour contains a grain of truth“, but in this case scientists made sure that antiperspirants are not hazardous in any way. However, it is very important and interesting to know, where the whole buzz came from:

By 1990, breast cancer prevention by mammography had become a medical precaution routine in many industrialised countries. At the same time, improved therapeutic radiology was established as an alternative method to combat mamma carcinoma. Women who had an appointment with health professionals, either for mammography or for a radiation treatment, always got the advice „Please do not to use antiperspirants before and during …“.

Till this day, doctors tend to give this advise to their female patients – often without further explanations. It seems to be obvious that most women, now and then, would ask themselves why they are supposed to do that …
False conclusions were drawn. Discussions – mostly online – arose. Eventually, the myth was born. It was spread rapidly all over the world (wide web), mostly by notorious chain emails (see above). Especially tumour patients adopted and supported the misinterpretation, which could be quoted as „My doctor said I shouldn’t use antiperspirants any more because they were the cause of my illness!“

This assumption is simply wrong. There are two logical explanations for the common advice not to use antiperspirants during examination or treatment:

  1. Mammography: Antiperspirants contain aluminium salts. Aluminium is a metallic element which can distort the mammographic picture. Traces of topical aluminium can appear as spots on the image, they also can hide important structures beneath. Professional examination is hindered by that.
    (c) sweatrelief
  2. Therapeutic radiology: Several cases of axillar inflammations suggested that antiperspirants, exposed to radiation, may cause reddened skin and harmful rashes. Recent resarches, though, gave the all-clear. Donna Gies, a radiation oncology nurse who led a related Canadian study with 198 breast cancer patients says: „We now have evidence to say that we don’t need to tell women to stop using their antiperspirant.“

    The study was hold between 2008 and 2010 at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary. More informations about this here or here.
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