Breast cancer. What a tragedy. This is the first year in a long time that I have not participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Austin. You know, busy, and all those other lame excuses.
One interesting fact about breast cancer you may not have known: the majority of breast cancers occurs in one of the four breast quadrants. That is, if you divided the breast into 4 mostly equal parts, more than half of all breast cancer tumors are found in one of those parts. It is the upper outer quadrant; the one closest to the armpit.
There are several theories for this. This quadrant is actually larger than the other quadrants because it contains a tail-like structure (subcutaneously, or under the skin, of course!) called the axillary tail (or “armpit” for us regular folks). Also, this quadrant closest to the armpit contains more glandular tissues.
This is directly from the American Cancer Society’s webpage:
“For some time, an email rumor suggested that underarm antiperspirants cause breast cancer. Among its claims:
- Cancer-causing substances in antiperspirants are absorbed through razor nicks from underarm shaving. These substances are said to be deposited in the lymph nodes under the arm, which are not able to get rid of them by sweating because the antiperspirant keeps you from perspiring. This causes a high concentration of toxins, which leads to cells mutating into cancer.
- Most breast cancers develop in the upper outer quadrant of the breast because that area is closest to the lymph nodes exposed to antiperspirants.
- Men have a lower risk of breast cancer because they do not shave their underarms, and their underarm hair keeps chemicals in antiperspirants from being absorbed.
All of these claims are largely untrue.”
Why is it untrue? Because a study done in 2003 compared 700 women with breast cancer to 700 women without breast cancer and they found no correlation between deodorant use, shaving, and incidence of cancer.
Give me a break. What they are saying is that if a woman starts shaving in her 30s as opposed to as a teenager, then the study should show a decreased risk factor to getting breast cancer in relation to the number of years one has shaved. I don’t think it works that way!
Here is what I think:
1. some people are more exposed to toxins and
2. some people are more vulnerable to those toxins.
When a higher exposure (more toxins) meets up with a higher vulnerability (lowered immunity), you have a higher chance of a problem. (Read here for more ways to cancer-proof your home.)
If most breast cancers are showing up where there are more glands, we need to review the function of these glands. “Apocrine sweat glands” become active during puberty to secrete an oily substance that enable bacteria to live on the skin (I’m assuming the helpful type of bacteria) as well as secrete pheromones to attract a mate.
Deodorants have been used for centuries to mask the underarm smell. Some time in the last 100 or so years, we decided that our underarm sweat is just not that sexy, so we started to stop it altogether with antiperspirants. Antiperspirants totally stop the sweating process in the “pit” altogether. The aluminum in the antiperspirant plugs up the sweat hole, and voila – bacteria-free, dry armpits.
What happens if you block your sweat? Is that a good idea? I’m sure we sweat for more reasons than just to smell lovely and attract bacteria. Do toxins leave our body through sweat? If you plug it up, what may happen?
I think that science needs to answer these questions thoroughly before the notion that antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer is disregarded. I think that there is a possibility that they do.
In the meantime, I use deodorant, but never again antiperspirant. Some brands that I have found to work reasonably well are: Thai Stick and Queen Helene which you can find at most natural food stores. What do you use under your arms?