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Mythbusting the mythbusters

By Meg Sears, PCN Board Member

This year’s World Cancer Day was celebrated by the Globe and Mail newspaper with a piece based on a new ‘mythbuster’ from Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH). Unfortunately, one of the so-called ‘myths’ challenged by PMH was a notion that underarm antiperspirants don’t cause breast cancer. In truth we lack evidence, because no human epidemiology study has reported a group that used neither antiperspirant nor deodorant.

What research exists, does provide reasons for concern. Our ‘lack of evidence’ is not ‘evidence of no harm.’

An early clue was that breast tumours are more frequent on the outer, upper aspect of the breast, close to the arm pit. As well, tumours have been found to contain significant levels of aluminum (antiperspirant) and parabens (one of several possible toxic preservatives) that are absorbed through the skin. Following that clue, fluid samples aspirated from breasts of patients were found to have higher aluminum levels than samples from women without cancer.

These chemicals, and others in fragrances, mimic or interfere with estrogen – they are endocrine (hormone system) disruptors.

Cancer does not arise from a single cause. Its development is a complex process, and environmental factors such as endocrine disruptors increase risk. Recent research found that Ontario women exposed to other estrogen mimicking chemicals in the workplace were at higher risk of breast cancer.

Interestingly, a similar ‘myth’ was just busted in Australia. With all the evidence of corporate influence in research reporting, we are left wondering – does myth-busting cause cancer?

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Also in the WINTER 2013 Issue of An Ounce

Published: March 5th, 2013