Does Underarm Deodorant Cause Breast Cancer

There’s been a lot of talk about the potential links between using certain underarm deodorants and developing breast cancer over the years. There are two main ingredients that I am asked about the most: parabens and aluminum.  Unfortunately there are no definite answers because the research is still ongoing, but I will attempt to discuss the pertinent issues here.

Are Parabens Dangerous?

Parabens are a type of preservative and are added to personal care products to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in products. Parabens can be found in a wide range of personal products, including lipsticks, lotions, shampoos and deodorant. In the last few years, research has shown that parabens bind estrogen receptors in the body and may have weak estrogen- like activity. This finding caused panic because estrogen disruptions in the body have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues (Endocrine-Related Cancer). Underarm deodorants that contain parabens have undergone the most scrutiny because they are applied so closely to the breast area and may be absorbed through the skin into the breast tissue.

There are different kinds of breast cancer. The tumors that contain estrogen receptors demonstrate more rapid growth when exposed to estrogen.  This is why doctors put these types of patients on estrogen receptor blocking drugs.  Patients with estrogen receptor positive breast tumors should certainly avoid any ingredients that activate the estrogen pathway and parabens fall into this category.  However, there are a few things you need to realize.  Parabens have never been shown to cause breast cancer nor have they been proven to speed the progression of breast cancer.  Their estrogenic activity is very weak. The paraben panic has resulted in many paraben free products, however products need some sort of preservative.  The preservatives that have been used to replace parabens are often worse than parabens themselves.  For example, I have seen many patients who have come in with an allergic rash in their underarms form their paraben free deodorant.  If you really want to be safe, you need a deodorant without any preservatives at all- but that means you will have to replace it every month to prevent bacterial growth.  Natural or organic preservative free deodorants do exist.  In the comment section please tell me some of your favorites because I am in the process of testing them to try to find a good one to recommend. It is not very easy to find one that really controls body odor. I have many patients who choose to get Botox injections to decrease underarm sweating. Studies have proven that this will eliminate odor. I did the FDA studies that led to the approval of Botox for hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).  It was found to be a safe method.  In some cases your insurance will cover it. If you do not like this idea, talk to your doctor about other procedures to reduce underarm sweating such as MiraDry and Ulthera.

Is Aluminum Dangerous?

Most people are probably familiar with aluminum by way of everyday household products like soda cans, aluminum foil and even cookware. It is also found in antiperspirants.  Aluminum enters the duct of the sweat gland and blocks sweat from leaving the gland.  Many people fear that this leads to health risks but there are no studies that prove that antiperspirants cause breast cancer.  I changed my cookware to an aluminum free brand because some studies have linked aluminum to central nervous system disorders, degenerative diseases and oxidative damage (Archives of Toxicology, Journal of Environmental Monitoring). If you want to avoid aluminum, choose a deodorant instead of an antiperspirant. Botox, MiraDry and ULthera are procedure options to reduce sweat production.

Are There Safer Alternatives?

Although we do not have definitive proof that parabens and aluminum cause breast cancer- why take the risk? There are other options. Aside from ditching deodorant altogether, which is probably not very practical, there are a few ways to avoid exposing skin to harmful ingredients. Botox® works by temporarily blocking the underarm nerves that trigger sweating, helping to ease symptoms of excessive sweating and reducing the need for strong deodorants that may contain parabens and aluminum.

There are a number of organic underarm deodorant options that don’t contain these potentially harmful ingredients. Terressentials Super Protection Deodorants are USDA Organic certified and come in a variety of fragrances, and even include a fragrance-free option. Aubrey Organics also offers a natural deodorant spray that’s paraben- and aluminum-free and contains vitamin E for an added bonus of soft, smooth skin. Please tell me below in the comments section if you have other brands that you like.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

August 17, 2016 Skincare