Aluminium and the Human Breast

Morphologie. 2016 Jun;100(329):65-74. doi: 10.1016/j.morpho.2016.02.001. Epub 2016 Mar 17.


The human population is exposed to aluminium (Al) from diet, antacids and vaccine adjuvants, but frequent application of Al-based salts to the underarm as antiperspirant adds a high additional exposure directly to the local area of the human breast. Coincidentally the upper outer quadrant of the breast is where there is also a disproportionately high incidence of breast cysts and breast cancer. Al has been measured in human breast tissues/fluids at higher levels than in blood, and experimental evidence suggests that at physiologically relevant concentrations, Al can adversely impact on human breast epithelial cell biology. Gross cystic breast disease is the most common benign disorder of the breast and evidence is presented that Al may be a causative factor in formation of breast cysts. Evidence is also reviewed that Al can enable the development of multiple hallmarks associated with cancer in breast cells, in particular that it can cause genomic instability and inappropriate proliferation in human breast epithelial cells, and can increase migration and invasion of human breast cancer cells. In addition, Al is a metalloestrogen and oestrogen is a risk factor for breast cancer known to influence multiple hallmarks. The microenvironment is established as another determinant of breast cancer development and Al has been shown to cause adverse alterations to the breast microenvironment. If current usage patterns of Al-based antiperspirant salts contribute to causation of breast cysts and breast cancer, then reduction in exposure would offer a strategy for prevention, and regulatory review is now justified.

Keywords: Aluminium; Anti-transpirant; Antiperspirant; Breast cancer; Breast cysts; Cancer du sein; Kystes mammaires.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / analysis
  • Aluminum / pharmacokinetics
  • Aluminum / toxicity*
  • Aluminum Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Aluminum Compounds / toxicity*
  • Antiperspirants / adverse effects*
  • Antiperspirants / chemistry
  • Axilla
  • Biological Availability
  • Breast / chemistry
  • Breast / cytology
  • Breast / drug effects*
  • Breast Cyst / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Estrogens / analogs & derivatives*
  • Female
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / chemically induced
  • Genomic Instability / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects
  • Tumor Microenvironment / drug effects


  • Aluminum Compounds
  • Antiperspirants
  • Estrogens
  • Aluminum