Anti-perspirants and shaving….do they cause breast cancer too?

Antiperspirants and underarm shaving cause breast cancer, too!

Dr. Kris McGrath, M.D. of Chicago published a study of 400 breast cancer survivors, in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Women who aggressively shave and use antiperspirant had a diagnosis of breast cancer 22 years earlier than non-users.

The most obvious conclusion is that tiny nicks in the skin caused by shaving allow for more penetration of the cancer-causing aluminum found in anti-perspirants.

One more time I’ll mention that I have not worn a commercial deodorant or anti-perspirant in years. Not even when I speak in front of 500 people, or wear a little black dress—or both, as I will do tomorrow night in Lehi, Utah. Not even when I run 5 miles and have a meeting right after.

The two things that work for me are a crystal stick (found in health food stores, a few brands), and coconut oil. There are no-paraben (which is an endocrine disruptor found in many cosmetics), no-aluminum deodorants on the market. You can try them but they chafe and don’t really work for me.

I hope you stop wearing commercial anti-perspirants, forever, today.

(Shaving? That I’m not giving up. Certainly not until I move to my little island in Europe. It shouldn’t matter if I’m not using deodorant with chemicals.)

In response to yesterday’s blog post, Grace made the point that the research I quoted wasn’t published in a peer-reviewed journal. I believe that most of the important and most-true information in the world is unpublished in peer-reviewed journals. Why? First, those vehicles were invented by the pharmaceutical industry. Second, only the pharmaceutical industry can afford to perform million-dollar clinical trials that are publishable. Third, not every piece of research is related to a medical rag, and not every researcher’s goal is to publish.

On the flip side, some of the worst lies ever perpetrated on the American public started by being published with “promising results” in the peer-reviewed journals. (Fen-phen, Lipitor, and Avastin, as examples.) Your peers allowing it to be published is not a failsafe. On the flip side, your not submitting it to the journals isn’t necessarily a credibility killer either.

I wish research weren’t so co-opted by a few wealthy industries. Remember that the five richest companies in the Fortune 500 are drug companies, and their wealth, combined, dwarfs the other 495 of the Fortune 500 combined! I love research, I love analysis, I love data and empirical evidence. But medical journals are businesses. I just don’t believe that the peer review or publishing processes necessarily validate information or that the medical journals have a corner on data.

47 thoughts on “Anti-perspirants and shaving….do they cause breast cancer too?

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    1. Lynn, just do coconut oil OR the crystal stick. Coconut oil is a food item you hopefully have in your pantry. The crystal stick, yes, at a natural store.

  1. If you are switching from a commercial deodorant to a natural alternative, you need to get rid of the build-up of deodorant product by scrubbing with a loofa. This may take a week or more, then judge if the natural alternative will work for you, or try another natural product. Some people also believe that just regularly scrubbing gently with a loofa will lessen sweating, too. Thanks for all you do Robyn.

  2. Just thought you might be interested. This website caught my eye, Lush.

    Lush has a ton of natural products; make-up, hair and body products,

    One of their deodorants says, “Microfine magnesium trisilicate and sodium bicarbonate keep your pits dry and comfortable, free from discomfort and moisture. The Greeench can be used on armpits, backs, feet and anywhere that needs a bit of herbal assistance.

    Their coconut deodorant says, “a moisture-absorbing mixture of tapioca, cornstarch and natural mineral magnesium carbonate.

    And they have lots more. Sounds like some of you know way more than I do so give it a look and let us know. Thanks for your hints. I’m going to try one tomorrow!


  3. I, too, have not used deodorant in quite a few years, and I don’t stink at all–I just slather on about a teaspoon of coconut oil under each arm, extending it up and down my side and arm. Because this oil is antibacterial the bacteria can’t grow in it. I love it! And my armpits and underarms are so soft.

    And no, it is not greasy and does not stain my clothing. I do sweat somewhat without an antiperspirant, but after a while you adjust to the feeling and forget about it. Hey, we sweat for a reason, don’t we? Why do we want to stop a natural body function?

    As for the bra. I hate them fiercely! I have always been uncomfortable wearing any kind of bra. I just don’t enjoy something squeezing me around the middle, cutting off my breathing capabilities. So, here is my solution. When I find I simply must wear one for societal reasons I use a bra extender, which you can buy anywhere, hooking it in the very last row on the bra and on the extender. Voila! you have the appearence of wearing a bra without it constricting your breasts. I do wear a sports bra for running, however.

  4. I came across a recipe on the internet for deodorant- equal parts (like, 2 Tbsp ea) baking soda and cornstarch, mix in an oil (I use sweet almond) to make a paste, I find the runnier the better, then add some essential oils. Author recommended geranium I think, but I use lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, or similar. An anti-bacterial one is recommended, for odor control. You’ll need to give it a good stir before you use it each time. Just rub some onto your underarms. I stink less than with the commercial ‘bad’ antiperspirants I used to use! Lasts all day, even overnight. Sometimes I find the oil will stain my shirts in the pit area a bit, or the white powder chunks will flake off if there isn’t enough oil in the mix (sometimes you have to re-add the oil & essential oils before the powder gets used up). I really like it though. I’ll have to try coconut oil though!

  5. Can I respond to Megan’s Question about teeth?

    I am a local general dentist who drinks green smoothies and eats whole foods and a plant-based diet with my family. I was on ABC4 morning news yesterday and KSL noon news segment for children’s dental health awareness month (Feb). The news anchor asked me what parents can do to help children have healthy teeth. My answer: Stop feeding your children the Standard America Diet, which is processed foods from cans and boxes, processed sugars, and fast food. Give your kids real food to eat. Absolutely the best thing you can do for your teeth, mouth, and body. Healthy teeth are really important when eating a whole foods diet because this is real food and you need strong healthy teeth to chew and break down the food to digest it well and absorb the nutrients (unless you want to blend everything up in your Blendtec!).

    Teeth form when we are very young, almost all permanent teeth have completed development of crown and most of the root by the age of 6-8 years old. Good nutrition (from whole foods) is so important for our young children. After tooth development, we are mainly talking about maintaining the teeth, which is removing food and debris which gets left on our teeth (biofilm). Standard American Diet is very hard on teeth as full of refined carbohydrates and refined sugars, which the normal flora (normal bacteria) in our mouths use as fuel and metabolize these substances, giving off acid as a byproduct. The acid demineralizes the teeth and begins the decay process. Chewing whole foods which are fibrous stimulates the gum tissues, has a natural lavaging effect on them, and promotes healthy gums.

    There is absolutely no need for animal products for healthy teeth or gums. I received a certificate from E Cornell University last year in Plant-Based Diet and I can confidently say that and I am confident in the way my family eats…that’s the way my kids eat and they have great teeth!

    Hope this helps put your mind at ease!

    Dr. Garon Larsen

    1. Many thanks, Garon. I might just post that front-and-center to give it more attention. Love that you did Dr. Campbell’s course!

  6. I have used a deodorant crystal for quite a while. Emily mentioned it did not work for her. If you have a hard time with it, give it a week or so. I think it took some time for my body to adjust to the different product and then it worked very well. Mine seems to last forever (years!), saving a lot of money from what most people spend on deodorant.

  7. While my armpits, which I wax/not shave, are still damp I put a couple of drops of GSExtract on two fingertips. With the opposing hand/2 fingers I dampen that skin and then rub these fingers against the other hand. Then I rub this under my armpits. This keeps me un-smelly all day long.

    Also, on the bra issue, you noted that push-ups were bad but underwired are worse. Talk about cutting off circulation. Thanks Robin.

  8. Robyn, you are blessed from eating well and have one of those skinny bodies so sometimes if you don’t wear a bra it is ok. I’ve recently taken to not wearing one at home because of a back issue. Or if I’m wearing a sweat shirt and a loose jacket. But it still feels strange to let the girls out. Ever try running without one? One could get hit, flapping up and down? That would be a strain on them I should think.

  9. Robyn,

    You have a new fan! Everything I’ve read of yours in the past half hour, from your archives, absolutely reflects the way I think and what I have observed in my 20 years as a therapeutic bodyworker, movement educator, wellness writer and alternative health care advocate. The pieces about bras and antiperspirants related to breast cancer, are so timely and well written. Thanks so much. I’ll be reading you from now on.

  10. Hi, I love the fact that you share all this knowledge with us. You and I think very much alike. I don’t wear normal deodorants either, but you mentioned that there’s no commercial brand without the “bad stuff” , but the one I use – JASON purifying tea tree – says clearly on the front that they have no aluminum, parabens, phthalates or propylene glycol. Do you think they’re lying? Should I avoid using even this one?

    Kind regards;


    1. Sofia, Jason’s is good. I meant commercial deodorants like the ones sold in the regular markets. Health food stores do have good options like JASON brand. Enjoy!

  11. Emily…I, too, didn’t find the crystal to work for me. But, of course, I come from a family with a very strong sweat gene :/ . I would like to know how you mix the coconut oil, arrowroot, and baking powder. And how do you apply it? Thanks for sharing.

    And Robyn, thanks for all your work. The information you provide for our consideration is much appreciated and has been instrumental in changing the course of my family’s lives.

  12. my share on deodorant and my perfume of choice since i the bad up many years ago gladly. would be patchouli oil which is a natural essential oil that i use straight on skin but some may need to dilute with a carrier oil like coconut or castor .the fragrance is either some love it or some hate it .and smelling it in the bottle is nothing like smelling it on someone

  13. i feel bad for the people who always have to see something published ,published by who doesn’t necessarily mean squat .

    look into to who backs the publishing and what they want published .

    as a matter a fact ,my biggest problem i hate to deal with is the fact that fluoride given at dentist office is approved by insurance company because its approved as safe(not safe at all ) from the “american dental association “as if they are the ones who know everything and than to say that mercury fillings are safe and are covered because its approved by none other than the american dental association but insurance won’t pay for the safer resin fillings because they cover themselves by saying we only want it for cosmetic reason .so ADA publishes its ok and everybody listens like robots

  14. I saw a show on Dr. Oz not that long ago about natural replacements for some of these harmful things we put on our body. The one that I have started using is apple cider vinegar under the arms! I know it sounds kind of crazy, but the theory is that is gently kills the bacteria that creats the smell. I have used this a few times now and the vinager smell disappears quite quickly and then I don’t use it again for a few days…….I also wouldnt put it on after you have just shaved!!! I have found that it is working quite well and I think most of us would already have this in our fridge!

  15. I want to have lazer hair removal done on my under arms. Have you heard of any negative health effects from getting this procedure?

  16. Robyn, please, please look into Sanoviv. It is a state of the art wholistic hospital/spa in Rosarita, Baja California. If you could have created a hospital, you would have built it and run it EXACTLY like this one. From the organic materials used to build the luxurious property, to the soft, organic outerwear and shoes everyone wears, to the conferences which teach you how to eat, exercise and meditate, and especially to the six specialists who lovingly, compassionately and competently take care of you…this is the Ritz Carlton of Health. I was recently there for five days just to check it out. If I ever had a life threatening illness or ANY dis-ease that is where I would go. I met people from all over the world; from Japan to Australia, whose stories of healing brought tears to my eyes.

    1. Linda, I’m very aware of Sanoviv and want to study there. I’ve written them twice with no response. If you want to tell them about my research, hook me up, I think they are doing great work! Thank you!

  17. Robyn, I didn’t mean any disrespect. “Peer-reviewed” has a lot of meanings. I think the topics are selected if they are “relevant” and “game-changing.” This is decided by the audience of the journals, I suppose. Researchers for pharmaceuticals. That’s one bar to being published in a peer review journal–I believe this is the fault you’re correctly pointing out. I assume that’s why, say, a study on how pretty kale makes peoples’s skin is excluded, no matter how many well-planned, neutral experiments they run. The second reason to kick out an article is bad science: poorly gathered, incomplete, or misinformed science. This is the one that makes me pause before I go ahead and burn all my bras. That said, I don’t really LIKE the conclusion either. I’m a 30E bra size and would have serious back problems if I let the girls out to play all day long. Maybe this is something that could be at least mitigated by skin brushing regularly? Thanks for continuing to post my comments, I know some bloggers would get cranky and refuse. And thanks in general, too!

    1. Grace, you can always say whatever you want on my blog. I like it. It’s a core value here to accept and embrace dissenting opinion. Better thinking arises out of push-back on ideas and I’m a FAN of that. If you read through the comments, you’ll notice that I accept all of them unless they’re super unkind to another commenter. Even if they punch me out—I can take it. I’m not burning mine either, but wearing them less and YES about lymphatic skin brushing, also rebounding. Letting the girls out to play LOL!

  18. I tried several times over the past two years to stop using deodorant. I just couldn’t find anything that worked. I had tried dry baking soda but I would get a rash/bumps. However, about a year or so ago I came across a YouTube video and the girl said she also got a rash from baking soda but had solved the problem by simply adding water to it, making a paste of it and then applying.

    I’ve been using this method since then with excellent results! Yeah! No more chemicals! Now if I could just go braless!

  19. So do you put on the crystal stick and the coconut oil together, or do you use them separate, or how exactly does it work best for you?



  20. I have tried everything in the healthfood stores and just this week discovered the company Bubble and Bee and their deoderant pitt-putty! Its awesome! Its also the most expensive, but there are no parabens, chemicals, it is aluminum free and propylene glycol free AND they are located in Bountiful, UT. It also smells really good. I don’t work for or with them I’m just excited I found a cancer free brand that works and thought I’d pass it on.

  21. Can you explain more how you use the coconut oil under arm – how much? before or after the crystal stick? What exactly does the coconut oil do – is it odor fighting? Will the coconut oil stain clothing? Thanks, Robyn!

  22. Interesting! I’m going to have to check out the health store options for deodorant.

    I can see both sides of the peer-reviewed article point. Peer reviewed articles do have a lot of credibility. But you make some good points as well. As a discerning reader, I’d be interested in knowing more about the doctor. Does the doctor stand to profit in any way from the article? 400 cancer survivors is a lot of people! I’d be inclined to believe this study based on the sheer number of participants. Also, putting a metal on your body repeatedly day after day, just doesn’t seem like such a good idea when you think about it…

  23. Haven’t used deodorant or anti-perspirants since finding out about milk of magnesia as a substitute. I play tennis with lots of hot sweaty days in Florida. It works perfectly and I am always dry.

  24. Hey Robin, I’ve been wanting to ask you a question for a while and I can’t decide whether to email or comment on the blog, but I guess I’ll start with a comment here. Can you address the issue of teeth? Or in other words, do you and your family and the other people who eat like this that you know all have fabulously healthy teeth? Because I totally love your eating style and I am not a big fan of eating animal products (i also tend to agree with Dr. Christopher and the LDS Word of Wisdom on this) but whenever I start to listen to the Weston Price people I start to get really nervous that my kids need organ meats and all kinds of animal fats or they are going to lose all their teeth. I just wish that you and the other people who do similar diets (dr. fuhrman, etc) would talk about teeth more. Do we need animal-based vitamin A to have healthy teeth? I get so worried about this I would really love to hear your opinion and experience and if you have any research, etc, that would be great too. Please?

    1. Hi Megan, that’s a bigger topic but I do think that long-term 100% raw vegans have dental issues quite often. That’s one of the reasons I don’t advocate for that diet. That said, there’s no way that organ meats are required for good dental health! I haven’t had a cavity in years, don’t even get plaque on my teeth, although part of that might be my awesome Sonic toothbrush. That said, I don’t eat meat NEVER—just ALMOST NEVER. I think “sparingly” might just be the key.

  25. Thanks for the info! I tried the crystal and it didn’t work at all, however, coconut oil mixed with arrowroot and baking powder are AMAZING! No sweat stains, no stink! Even when u go camping for a few days without showering you still won’t stink!

  26. Robin,

    I like your blog, but sometimes I do not think you word things carefully. The five richest companies in the Fortune 500 are not drug companies! In fact, the first company that his healthcare related to show up on the Fortune 500 is at 15, from

    Rank // Company // Revenue in Millions

    1 Wal-Mart Stores 421,849.0

    2 Exxon Mobil 354,674.0

    3 Chevron 196,337.0

    4 ConocoPhillips 184,966.0

    5 Fannie Mae 153,825.0



    15 McKesson 108,702.0

    P.S. Peer reviewed journals were not started by the drug companies. Peer reviewed journals have been around since Newtons days, their genesis is contemporary to the scientific revolution, not drug companies funding studies. That said, peer reviewed does not mean peer approved.

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