Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
August 25, 2003
Daily deodorant smells of death
Scientific studies link antiperspirants with tumors
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Is our culture's obsession with smelling like anything but our natural human odour killing us? Is the chemical/mineral cocktail most people apply to their underarms and elsewhere in a never-ending battle against the secretions of our apocrine and eccrine glands increasing our risk of developing deadly diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer?
In the pre-modern era, body odour was presumably taken for granted. Then in 1888, a now-anonymous inventor in Philadelphia concocted the first recorded commercial product designed to combat underarm odour - a cream sold under the trade name Mum. By 1914, sales reached sufficient levels to support national advertising. In 1931, the Bristol-Myers Corp. acquired the Mum Manufacturing Co. and began aggressively marketing it. I recall the stuff being around when I was a kid back in the 1950s. By 1947, sales totalled $30 million, but deodorant-mania really took off after Ban Roll-on was introduced in 1952, followed by antiperspirant aerosols in 1965. Deodorant in spray cans petered out after chlorofluorocarbon propellants were banned in the U.S. in 1978, to be replaced by a stick and spray products.
The problem with deodorants, especially antiperspirants, is that some of the substances they contain, especially aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, are suspected toxins that are soluble and easily absorbed through your skin. Once in your body the aluminum passes freely across cell membranes, and can be absorbed into your liver, kidneys, brain, cartilage, bone marrow.
It's widely believed that aluminum can cause Alzheimer's Disease, and more recently it's been implicated as a probable cause of certain breast and lymphatic cancers, which may be linked to hormone disruption.
The formation of malignant breast tumours is known to be linked to hormone levels.
Moreover, aluminum's action of blocking sweat glands from excreting perspiration inhibits the body's ability to expel toxins via that medium.
Other ingredients used in deodorants suspected of having adverse health effects include dibutyl pthalate, boric acid, petrolatum (petroleum jelly), various chemical fragrances triclosan; methyl parabens; sorbitan monostearate; and propylene glycol."
Dr. Philippa Darbre, a senior cancer researcher in the department of cell and molecular biology at Reading University, UK, believes chemicals in deodorants could accelerate the growth of breast cancer, and is studying tumour samples taken from more than 6,000 women for traces of parabens, used as a preservative in many deodorants.
According to The Times of London, new cases of breast cancer have doubled in Britain from about 20,000 a year in the late 1970s to almost 40,000 a year now. Breast cancer in British men has doubled over the past three decades to about 300 cases a year in Britain, which has one of the world's highest rates of the disease.
Per capita, Britons are also among the biggest users of deodorants.
In a published monograph referencing more than 50 clinical studies and scientific papers, Darbre notes that deodorant chemicals are applied repetitively and frequently to an area directly adjacent to the breast area. They are not rinsed off but left always on the skin, and are used by women with ever increasing frequency and by ever younger girls before puberty.
"The strongest supporting evidence for a role for underarm cosmetics in breast cancer comes from published clinical observations showing disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer both in the upper outer quadrant of the breast and in the left breast," Darbre writes. "Numerous clinical studies, dating back decades, have shown that the upper outer quadrant of the breast is the most frequent site of carcinoma in men as well as in women. It is interesting to note that the disproportionate incidence of female breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant rises with year of publication.
The percentage of tumours occurring upper-outer section of the left breast," the proportion in that area has increased from 31 in 1926 to 61 in 1994."
Why the left breast? Darbre suggests that the right-handed nature of a majority of the population would result in a greater application of chemicals to the left underarm area.
Darbre's review has been published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology. The British Endocrine Societies have set up an expert panel on the issue under Richard Sharpe, a professor at the Medical Research Council's human reproductive sciences unit in Edinburgh.