Breast cancer can develop close to the armpit area, which raises concerns about commercial skin products for this delicate body part. However, educating yourself about the ingredients in these products can help you avoid them on your next shopping trip. Luckily, we have many natural deodorants, sunscreens, and other products nowadays.
Although safety regulations exist for skincare and hygiene products, some creams, lotions, and deodorants fall through the cracks. For example, an independent testing lab detected the carcinogen benzene in almost 80 sunscreens in 2021. The lab contacted the FDA after making the finding, suggesting they immediately recall the products. Long-term exposure to benzene can lead to blood cancers such as leukemia.
However, benzene isn’t the only chemical known to cause cancers. Research shows that deodorants made with aluminum can cause levels of the female hormone estrogen to increase, potentially leading to cancer. Also, parabens – an artificial preservative used in cosmetic and body care products – can increase the risk of breast cancer. Studies show these chemicals mimic estrogen activity in the body and could promote cancer cell growth.
So, applying products containing estrogen-enhancing chemicals to sensitive areas such as armpits provides a direct pathway to estrogen receptors. In some cases, it can lead to cancer when these harmful chemicals make their way under the skin. Cancer can occur in almost every organ and tissue in the human body. Genetic mutations or cellular damage cause cells to multiply abnormally in tissues, forming tumors.
Breast Cancer Statistics
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 8 women and 1 in 833 men will get breast cancer within their lifetimes. Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women after skin cancer.
Having a family history of breast cancer significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with the disease. In fact, a women’s risk nearly doubles if a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) gets diagnosed with breast cancer.
However, about 85% of women with a diagnosis have no close relatives with breast cancer. These cases occur due to other factors such as genetic mutations, aging, or environmental conditions rather than heritability.
Researchers have extensively studied ways to prevent breast cancer by identifying modifiable risk factors. Armed with this knowledge, we can reduce our breast cancer risk by removing the environmental factors linked to the disease.
Synthetic Hormones Associated With Breast Cancer
Our natural hormones do wonders for our bodies. Unfortunately, synthetic hormone-like chemicals come in many body care and hygiene products. These compounds can lead to poor health and could lead to an increased risk of breast and other cancers.
Numerous synthetic chemicals (called xenoestrogens) act like estrogen in our bodies. Xenoestrogens do not biodegrade and get stored in our fat cells. Estrogenic chemicals often found in cosmetic products include the following:
- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (found in sunscreen)
- Erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3 (red color)
- Phenosulfothiazine (red color)
Parabens are preservatives found in makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving creams. Companies may disguise this cancer-causing chemical in other variations on cosmetic labels, including methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben.
A Study Made a Breakthrough Discovery
One study discovered that parabens occurred in the breast tissue of 99% of women who had cancer. While manufacturers no longer use parabens in deodorants, researchers still found them in the breast tissue of women who did not use deodorant. Clearly, this warrants further research to confirm the link between parabens and breast cancer. The safest bet is to avoid using underarm products or other cosmetics that contain parabens.
The chemical additive phthalates may be present in cosmetic products such as nail polish and spray products to maintain color and reduce brittleness. However, studies show that the chemical disrupts the balance of other hormones that interact with estrogen, including testosterone. In some cases, this could increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Aluminum, also appearing on labels as aluminum ammonium sulfate, aluminum chlorohydrate, and aluminum zirconium may also increase estrogen unnaturally. Absorption of aluminum salts from deodorant inconclusively links to cancer.
One study of 437 women showed that the frequency of deodorant use might contribute to breast cancer. However, a second study showed little correlation between deodorant and cancer. Again, you might decide that it pays to play it safe with deodorant by avoiding these additives altogether.
Natural Armpit Detox to Help Prevent Breast Cancer
- Use an organic soap to clean your armpit area and remove unwanted chemicals. Discard any suspect products.
- Exercise or use a sauna to activate your sweat glands. Sweating does an excellent job at removing toxins from our bodies. Clean your skin again to remove any surface toxins.
- Drink water. After sweating, you need to hydrate your body. The extra water will also help your kidneys to keep flushing and detoxifying your body.
- Eat your greens. Multiple studies have shown that Broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous veggies have high levels of indole-3-carbinol (I3C). This compound can help your body clear out excess estrogens.
- Avoid chemical additives. Read labels or use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep app, which allows you to scan barcodes of various products. The app assigns a rating from 0 to 10 (low to serious concern) for the risk factor associated with the product. They rate products based on their cancer-causing ingredients, allergy-producing ingredients, and risk factors for reproductive harm.
- Make homemade deodorant. Search for natural alternative recipes for the products that you’ve eliminated. Try a blend of coconut oil, bentonite clay, and your favorite essential oils to create a homemade lotion-like deodorant. Or, make a spray solution with natural salt, witch hazel, and a high-quality essential oil for natural fragrance.
In addition to these natural remedies, the CDC recommends the following to reduce breast cancer risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce or avoid alcoholic beverages.
- If you currently take or are considering hormone replacement therapy or birth control, ask your doctor about the risks.
- When possible, breastfeed your children.
- If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.
Final Thoughts on Preventing Breast Cancer
While millions of women get diagnosed with breast cancer each year, recently, prevention methods and treatments have improved. Early detection through screening may have contributed to the decline in deaths from breast cancer since 2013. In addition, maintaining healthy body weight and remaining physically active can reduce cancer risk. Avoiding synthetic chemicals in products such as deodorants can potentially prevent breast cancer.