Are antiperspirants and deodorants safe?

Aluminium has been shown to possess some undesirable biological effects on human body and exposure to high doses of aluminium has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and Alzheimers’s Disease.

Why did the controversy exist between breast cancer and antiperspirant?

As a majority of breast cancer occurs in the upper outer quadrant of the breast it was theorised that regular use of underarm cosmetics such as antiperspirant could potentially contribute to the increasing number of breast cancer detected in this site.

  • It was also shown in some studies that a concentration of aluminium was found in breast cancer tissues.
  • In vitro ( laboratory) studies have shown that aluminium can cause DNA instability and can promote cellular proliferation thus could potentially cause cancer.

What do the recent human studies say?

Many studies support the fact that the higher amount of breast tissue present in the upper outer quadrant of the breast is the reason for the increase number of breast cancer detected in this area and not because of it being in close proximity to the axilla (under arm).

Other studies have also shown that aluminium was found to be equally present both in the cancerous tissue as well as normal breast tissue.

The absorption of aluminium present in antiperspirant through the intact skin is very minimal and not significant enough to cause breast cancer.

Systematic analysis of two case-control studies has found no association between the use of antiperspirant and increase risk for breast cancer.

Does aluminium in antiperspirant cause Alzheimer’s disease?

A possible link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease was questioned when laboratory studies of high doses of injected aluminium was shown to cause neurofibrillary tangles (characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease)in rabbit brains i.e aluminium is neurotoxic to animal brains. This finding dates back to 1965, and years later it still remains a controversy.

Studying the association between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been difficult due to the ethical issues in obtaining brain tissue for biopsies. The study so far have been based on autopsied brain specimens from patients with AD. This does not answer whether the increase aluminium concentration found in these specimens were the cause of the disease or a consequence of it.

As Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic disease, prospective studies aiming to determine the association between exposure to aluminium and the disease are met with many hurdles. AD Causes significant memory loss (dementia), studies relying on patients account of their history of exposure to aluminium in the past for example use of aluminium-based antiperspirant are biased, as patients are unable to recall correctly such exposures. Few studies have relied on the accounts given by the patient’s partners who may not have a correct idea of such exposures.

Therefore the association between aluminium exposure be it from our diet or water or underarm cosmetics and Alzheimer’s disease will always be a controversy yet to be proven.

What we know so far?

As stated earlier aluminium present antiperspirant is not significantly absorbed through the skin. The minimal amount that is absorbed is effectively excreted via the kidney before reaching the brain.

Therefore antiperspirant use is not likely to cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Presently there is no strong scientific evidence linking exposure to aluminium (including aluminium in anti-perspirant) as a causative factor To the development of Alzheimer’s disease