Underarm cosmetics and breast cancer

J Appl Toxicol. Mar-Apr 2003;23(2):89-95. doi: 10.1002/jat.899.


Although risk factors are known to include the loss of function of the susceptibility genes BRCA1/BRCA2 and lifetime exposure to oestrogen, the main causative agents in breast cancer remain unaccounted for. It has been suggested recently that underarm cosmetics might be a cause of breast cancer, because these cosmetics contain a variety of chemicals that are applied frequently to an area directly adjacent to the breast. The strongest supporting evidence comes from unexplained clinical observations showing a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, just the local area to which these cosmetics are applied. A biological basis for breast carcinogenesis could result from the ability of the various constituent chemicals to bind to DNA and to promote growth of the damaged cells. Multidisciplinary research is now needed to study the effect of long-term use of the constituent chemicals of underarm cosmetics, because if there proves to be any link between these cosmetics and breast cancer then there might be options for the prevention of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Axilla / physiopathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / epidemiology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • DNA Damage
  • Female
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / chemically induced
  • Genes, BRCA1 / drug effects
  • Genes, BRCA2 / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Sweat / drug effects
  • Sweat / physiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Cosmetics