Possible deodorant dangers a big stink

The debate over the possibility that aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants causes chronic medical conditions such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease is still ongoing, with uncertainty being the only conclusion thus far.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been trying to dispel the rumor with a link on its Web site titled “False Report: Underarm Antiperspirants or Deodorants Cause Breast Cancer,” which leads to the National Cancer Institute’s Web site, http://cis.nci.nih.gov.

“Researchers at the NCI are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer,” the site said. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.”

Citing results from a 2002 study, the NCI reported on its Web site that the “study did not show any increased risk for breast cancer in women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant. The results also showed no increased breast cancer risk for women who reported using a blade (non-electric) razor and an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant, or for women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant within one hour of shaving with a blade razor.”

“These conclusions,” according to the site, “were based on interviews with 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women with no history of breast cancer.”

The Mayo Clinic’s Web site, Mayoclinic.com, reported similar conclusions about the lack of evidence connecting Alzheimer’s disease to deodorant use.

“Some people with Alzheimer’s have deposits of aluminum in their brain,” the Web site said. “But scientists who’ve studied environmental sources of aluminum — everything from antiperspirants to drinking water — haven’t found a link between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer’s.”

On the other side of the issue are people such as Kris McGrath of Northwestern University, trying to prove that using deodorant immediately after shaving with a regular razor increases the risk of breast cancer.

“He divided 437 breast cancer patients into four groups depending on how often they shaved and applied deodorant. He found that the more zealous the underarm regime, the younger the women were when diagnosed with cancer,” said NewScientist’s Web site, Newscientist.com.However, the Web site continued, “(the study) has too many weaknesses to be regarded as definitive.”

The NCI’s Web site responded to McGrath’s 2003 study, acknowledging that “women who began both of these underarm hygiene habits before 16 years of age were diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age than those who began these habits later.”

When it comes to the conclusiveness of the study, the NCI shares the same opinion as Newscientist.com, that the study “does not demonstrate a conclusive link between these underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer. Additional research is needed to investigate this relationship and other factors that may be involved.”

Thomas Sellers, associate center director of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center at USF, agreed that more research needs to be done.

“I’m not aware of any compelling evidence that (deodorant or antiperspirant use) is associated with risk of breast cancer,” Sellers said. “The last article I read did nothing to change my mind. It’s potentially important because many women could be exposed, but rigorous studies need to be done.”

USF students are also divided on the issue. Some have discontinued using stick deodorant, while others have dismissed the supposed risks as a rumor.

Xavier Patel, a junior majoring in business, is not taking any chances with the dangers he has heard about aluminum in deodorant.

“I use body spray,” he said, “truthfully I do. My girl uses (body spray). I think people should use body spray so they don’t get cancer.”

Other students, such as Diana Vergara, a senior majoring in psychology, have heard the rumors about the dangers aluminum can pose.

“I’ve heard the rumor, and it doesn’t dissuade me from using deodorant (that contains aluminum),” she said.

However, Vergara said that they haven’t found any conclusive evidence of aluminum dangers in deodorant “probably because they haven’t studied long-term effects.”