Years on and the debate over aluminum deodorants goes on

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Deodorant

Following another scientific study that alleges links between
aluminum salts in deodorants and breast cancer, the Cosmetic,
Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTFA) has aired its concern
that the findings might cause unnecessary worry amongst consumers.

The CTFA was reacting to a review paper on metalloestrogens published in the most recent edition of The Journal of Applied Toxicology by Dr. Philippa Darbre, Ph.D, from the University of Reading, England.

Dr. Darbre's review drew attention to various research that has historically pointed to the link between aluminum salts in deodorants and between breast cancer. The report was picked up by the North American media with several articles making the consumer and national press.

In the review Dr. Darbre reported that underarm deodorants may contribute to the risk of breast cancer because they contain aluminum salts with metal ions that mimic the effect of estrogen.

According to Dr. Darbre, there is a growing amount of evidence that indicates some metals, including aluminum, can bind to estrogen receptors. Known as metalloestrogens, these salts 'can form a major source of aluminum exposure in adults'.

The review also points out that because deodorant is left on the armpit, this prolongs exposure to the product, which can be further exacerbated by the fact that shaving this area can lead to heightened sensitivity.

In answer to the review's findings, the CTFA stresses that Dr. Darbre's review paper actually draws no conclusion about the risk of aluminum salts in deodorants and is calling for further research into the area.

"Understandably there is concern about the incidence of breast cancer and while we welcome any research that tries to determine a cause for breast cancer cases, the article many cause alarm if it is taken out of context,"​ the CTFA said in a statement.

"It is crucial to bear in mind that it is not based on new research or evidence, but on a theory proposed by the author Dr. Philippa Darbre,"​ the statement added.

The CTFA also went on to stress that a number of cancer research organizations have stated that there is no plausible biological mechanism which could lead to cancer just by using antiperspirants.

"A large number of scientific studies have investigated breast cancer risk factors, however, there is no reliable evidence to suggest deodorant or anti-perspirant use are two of them. This review does not provide any further proof,"​ said Dr. Sarah Rawlings, head of policy and information at Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Either way, the use of aluminum salts has caused many consumers to back away from using aluminum in deodorants, prompting a number of personal care players to launch deodorant lines that are free from aluminum.

One such company is 21st Century Healthcare, which claims that all of its antiperspirants are aluminium-free. Instead of using aluminium, the company uses lichen as an active ingredient to help inhibit odor.

In December 2004, the The Food and Drug Administration introduced new legislation that stipulates all antiperspirants containing aluminium or aluminium compounds must clearly label the ingredients on the packaging.

The ruling says that any antiperspirants containing these substances must carry a 'black box' label that warns consumers of the potential health hazards of aluminum and to keep the products away from children.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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