Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study

Women who regularly use deodorants containing aluminium salts could risk developing breast cancer, a new Swiss study warns.

Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Twelve thousand women participated in a race against breast cancer in Le Mans, France, October 2014. Photo: AFP

Initial tests on isolated mammary cells derived from a normal human gland were later replicated in studies on mice, and the results were the same: long-term exposure to concentrations of aluminium caused cells to form tumours and metastasise.

“I think we should avoid all deodorants containing aluminium salts,” co-author André-Pascal Sappino told The Local. 

“And it’s very difficult to be sure that the so-called ‘without aluminium’ brands really are without,” added the oncology professor from the University of Geneva. 

Sappino said the team's earlier research was treated with scepticism, but mounting evidence meant it was much easier to get published this time.

For now, aluminium salts were a “suspect, not yet convicted”, said the professor, who drew an analogy with asbestos, the use of which is banned in Switzerland and the European Union. 

“Asbestos is cheap, has very attractive industrial potential, and it took 50 years to ban it. We hope it doesn’t take so long to ban aluminium salts,” said Sappino. 

Like asbestos, aluminium is not detectably mutagenic in bacteria, but subcutaneous injections of aluminium salts in mice resulted in “very aggressive tumours”. 

While the study has not completely established a formal link with breast cancer, Sappino said he would advise all women against using deodorants that contain aluminium salts. 

Men too should think twice: while breast cancer among men is rare, its incidence is rising, Sappino said. 

The oncologist said he fully expected to face resistance from the cosmetics industry. 

“Now the fight will begin. They will act like the tobacco industry and say that proof in human beings is lacking.” 

Sappino said he expected that team’s finding would make it easier to secure funding to further examine the cancer-causing effects of aluminium salts. 

The study, co-authored by four researchers from the Clinique des Grangettes, is published in the International Journal of Cancer.


Four Swiss researchers share $1.5-million grant

Four Swiss medical researchers and one from Spain received grants totalling $1.5-million for clinical cancer research on Thursday in Zurich.

Four Swiss researchers share $1.5-million grant
Photo: SAKK

Dr. Sacha Rothschild from the Basel university hospital, Dr. Nicholas Mach from the Geneva university hospital (HUG), Professor Adrian Ochsenbein from the Inselspital Bern and Monica Ruggeri of the International Breast Cancer Study Group Coordinating Centre in Bern were the Swiss recipients.

The fifth researcher awarded was Dr. Jordi Rodon of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona.

The grants were handed out during the semi-annual meeting of the Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research (SAKK).

The grant is funded by SAKK, the Swiss non-profit Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research and the US-based non-profit organization, Gateway for Cancer Research.

The three groups got together in 2011 to form a strategic partnership to “accelerate innovative and relevant oncology research that may lead to more potent, less toxic and potentially life-saving treatment options for cancer patients”.

The grant, the third of its kind given out by the groups, was increased from $450,000 awarded to individual research projects last year and in 2013, SAKK said in a news release.

The projects awarded this year include therapies for improved care of lung cancer patients, improved quality of life for breast cancer patients and for elderly and frail patients with newly diagnosed myeloid leukemia.

Another research project is looking into cell-based immunotherapy for advanced malignant cancers while another is looking at the repurposing of a of the ivermectin drug to test its anti-tumour effect.

“Cancer remains a worldwide health problem,” Eveline Mumenthaler, director of the Rising Tide Foundation, said in a statement.

“With over 100 different known cancers that affect humans, factors such as an aging population together with the evolution of lifestyle continue to make cancer a major societal challenge,” she said.

“While new discoveries have brought about innovative diagnostic approaches and effective therapies, a continuous strong financial support is required to advance novel and evidence-based research.”

Beat Thürlimann, SAKK president noted the grant endowment was increased to mark SAKK's 50th anniversary in 2015 and that research in a number of categories is eligible for support.

”The aim of the grant is to support five academic research projects,” Thürlimann said. 

“This is entirely in keeping with the SAKK's mission,” he said. 

“As an academic research institute, we have been committed for the past 50 years to finding the best possible cancer therapy for patients in Switzerland.”