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expert reaction to study of tumorigenesis in mouse mammary cells treated with aluminium

A paper published in the journal Molecular Cancer Biology has reported that aluminium salt compounds are able to transform mouse breast cells maintained in vitro to give them characteristics of tumour cells.


Prof. Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said:

“This study shows that aluminium chloride, a chemical that is a main ingredient of many anti-perspirants, can turn normal mouse breast epithelial cells into cancer cells when grown artificially in a culture dish. However, when injected into live mice aluminium chloride only caused cancer in a strain of mice that also had a severe deficiency of the immune system. Injected aluminium chloride did not cause cancer in other more normal strains of mice.

“These results tell us little about the potential for aluminium chloride to cause breast cancer when used normally.

“There are a few things that should be noted that limit any conclusions that can be drawn from this study.

“The results from studies using biological systems that are used to study cancer in the laboratory such as cell culture and mouse models often do not apply in humans.

“As the study authors themselves note ‘…evidence on the carcinogenic potential of aluminium requires epidemiological studies in humans.’

“Breast cancer in humans occurs through of the cells of the breast epithelium – the glandular tissue that produces milk – that lies deep in the breast tissue (most of which is fat). Chemicals applied to the skin are unlikely to penetrate deep into breast tissue and there are no studies showing that underarm anti-perspirant is associated with an increased level of aluminium in breast epithelial tissue.

“There are no studies that link the use of anti-persiprants to an increased risk of breast cancer.

“Some studies of human breast cancers have found no difference in the levels of aluminium found in the cancer tissue when compared to normal tissue.

“In summary, this paper reports on an interesting snippet of cancer biology but women should not be concerned that anti-perspirants are associated with a risk of breast cancer.  It is also worth noting that not all deodorants contain aluminium chloride.”


Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“This study looks specifically at mouse cells grown in the lab and in mice and we need to put its findings in the context of previous research looking at human breast cancer.

“Studies investigating antiperspirant or deodorant use in women have consistently shown no good evidence of a link to breast cancer. With the current evidence, there is no reason for women to be concerned about using them on account of their breast cancer risk.

“There are, however, established ways that all women can help reduce their risk of the disease, including cutting down on alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise.”




Declared interests

None declared

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