Is Your Deodorant Bad For Your Health?


By Jesica Levingston Mac Leod, PhD

Body odors (BO) are part of our evolution, and the ability to smell has evolved with us, making people fall in love or run away from a smelly person. Sweat has an initial effect to cool our body down and avoid overheating. Sweat can also be trigger by stress, anxiety or other hormonal changes. Sweat by itself doesn’t smell, but the bacteria located near the glands, for example, the armpits, breakdown the sweat generating the “BO”. How do we deal with the stinky fact? We apply deodorants and/or antiperspirants. Deodorants have ingredients like triclosan, which make the skin more salty or acidic for the bacteria to grow in those areas. Therefore deodorants don’t stop you from sweating, but antiperspirants will do the trick, as they contain ingredients like aluminum and zirconium, which are taken up through the pores and they react with water and swell, forming a gel that blocks the sweat.

Last year, Mandriota and collaborators demonstrated that in a cancer mouse model, concentrations of aluminum in the amount of those measured in the human breast are able to transform cultured mammary epithelial cells, allowing them to form tumors and to metastasize. Moreover, aluminum salts have been linked with DNA damage, oxidative stress, and estrogen action. In 2004, a woman reported aluminum poisoning after using antiperspirants for four years, and after stopping the use of these products the aluminum levels dropped and she recovered.

Breast cancer develops after cells with mutations in their DNA start growing uncontrolled, generating a tumor. Most breast cancers develop in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, near to the lymph nodes that are exposed to antiperspirants. This fact was the starting point for the theories that the underarm cosmetic products could be carcinogenic. One of the first publications on this subject dates from 2002; it was population-based (ages 20-74, 1606 patients) and found no correlation between breast cancer and antiperspirant use. A second article found a relationship between an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis to more frequent regular use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving.

Aluminum salts have been linked to increased risk of developing breast cancer, but so far the research on this has been quite inconsistent. Last month, a new research study of 418 women (ages 20 to 85) examined their self-reported history of use of underarm cosmetic products and health status, in order to unveil a bit more about the link between antiperspirants and breast cancer. Linhart and col. from Austria, studied the relationship of the use of underarm cosmetic products and the risk of breast cancer. They divided the group in two: half of the women were breast cancer patients and the other half healthy controls. Then, they measured the concentration of aluminum in the breast tissue of some of the women. The results showed that the risk of breast cancer increased by an odd ratio of 3.88 in females who described using the underarm products multiple times per day starting before their 30th birthday. Importantly: “aluminum traces were found in the breast tissue in both cancer patients and healthy controls and it was significantly associated to self-reported underarm cosmetic products use”. In fact, the median concentrations of aluminum were 5.8 (2.3-12.9) nmol/g in the tissues from breast cancer patients versus 3.8 (2.5-5.8) nmol/g in controls. The conclusion is that more than daily use of these cosmetic products at younger ages may lead to the accumulation of aluminum in breast tissue and increase the risk of breast cancer.

Although the American Cancer Society claims that “there are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use”, after the Linhart investigation, and knowing that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, I will avoid antiperspirants with aluminum. Nobody wants to be called “stinky”, so some actions to take are to wash your clothes after working out, take showers regularly and/or clean your armpits with water and soap as soon as you “smell something”, apply deodorant, and consult with your doctor about the best way to keep your body odors under control. The last resource: perfume. If you can’t win the fight… hide.

New Insight Into Breast Cancer Offers Therapeutic Hope


By Asu Erden

Triple negative breast cancers are highly aggressive malignancies. They do not express any of the hormone receptors usually used to target chemotherapies to treat this type of cancer and have a high relapse rate after treatment. As such, these cancers can come with a very poor prognosis and insight into their development is therefore direly needed. A study published this month by Chen et al. in the scientific journal Nature dissects the role of the XBP1 protein in the development of triple negative breast cancers. The team of scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College observed that XBP1 levels are higher in triple negative breast cancer cell lines. Of particular therapeutic relevance is their finding that depleting XBP1 leads to reduced tumor metastasis in both a mouse model of triple negative breast cancer and human cell lines derived from such cancers. These findings offer hope for the development of therapies aimed at treating this highly challenging cancer.


Cancers have high proliferative rates. This incurs a high energetic cost on cells by requiring the rapid synthesis of proteins. The resulting accumulation of unfolded proteins can in time lead to cellular stress. Studies have shown that the unfolded protein response (UPR) is activated in most breast cancers. The UPR is a cellular stress response mediated by the enzyme IRE1. The role of this enzyme is to cut up the Xbp1 mRNA into its mature form and allow the activated XBP1 protein to translocate to the nucleus. There, XBP1 acts as a transcription factor and allows the expression of a host of genes involved in the UPR.


To investigate the effects of anti-XBP1 treatment on cancer relapse, Chen et al. treated a breast cancer mouse model with a combination of XBP1 short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) and doxorubicin (a chemotherapeutic drug). XBP1 shRNA prevent the expression of the XBP1 gene. This combination therapy prevented tumor growth and relapse. Further probing revealed that XBP1 shRNA acts by targeting a specific tumor cell subset – human breast cancer stem cells – known to be involved in tumor relapse. Isolation of this cell population from triple negative breast cancer patients revealed increased levels of activated XBP1. Moreover, the silencing of XBP1 in these mammary gland cells resulted in reduced cell clumps, while overexpression of this gene resulted in increased cell clump formation and resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs.


Chen’s team also further dissected the mechanism allowing XBP1 to promote the development of triple negative breast cancers. They unraveled the protein’s involvement in the hypoxia-induced cellular stress response. Hypoxia – a condition characterized by a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching cells – is a potent cellular stressor. It is also a central feature of many tumors. The hypoxia-induced factor 1a (HIF1a) is activated during the cellular response to hypoxia and is known to be upregulated in triple negative breast cancers. Chen et al. shed light on the interplay between XBP1 and HIF1a, which was hitherto unknown. They revealed that the two proteins cooperate in targeting specific DNA sequences and that XBP1 increases HIF1a activity. XBP1 therefore allows the hypoxia response, characteristic of cancers, to take place by promoting the cellular responses mediated by HIF1a.


The results from this study shed light on the mechanism through which XBP1 contributes to the development of triple negative breast cancers. Of particular note is Chen et al.’s silencing data. Therapies utilizing XBP1 silencing techniques, such as shRNAs, combined with chemotherapies could result in highly successful clearance of these cancers and significantly reduced chances of relapse.


Sizzling Papers of the Week – Nov 29


The Scizzle Team


Choices, Choices…

The decisions we make are influenced not only by the objective pros and cons of each option, but also by subjective evaluations that lead us to prefer one choice over another.  Research published Monday suggested that the home of such subjective preferences in the brain may be the lateral habenula, a region previous thought to be more generally involved in aversion.  Interfering with the lateral habenula’s functioning left rats unable to use subjective preferences, such as favoring large rewards that require more work or small, more easily obtained rewards – to guide their choices, instead reverting to choosing at random.

What’s better for me? Fundamental role for lateral habenula in promoting subjective decision biases , Stopper, Colin M and Floresco, Stan B., Nature Neuroscience, advance online publication November 24 2013


Cholesterol and Breast Cancer Tag Team

High cholesterol and breast cancer are both leading health threats – and now investigators have discovered how the two can work together.  A metabolite of cholesterol, 27HC, increases certain forms of tumor growth and metastasis, an effect that depends on conversion by the cytochrome oxidase CYP27A1.  It turns out that CYP27A1 levels correlate to tumor grade, and inhibiting CYP27A1 reduces the influence of high cholesterol on breast cancer.

27-Hydroxycholesterol Links Hypercholesterolemia and Breast Cancer Pathophysiology, Nelson, Erik R., et a.l, Science, November 29 2013


It’s All in Your Gut (but we’re not talking bacteria this time)

Love can we blind but your visceral isn’t! A 4-year study found that the visceral attitudes, that are not necessary all sweet, can predict if the couple is indeed the “happily ever after” kind of marriage or not. So before you decide to get married – check you gut feeling.

Though They May Be Unaware, Newlyweds Implicitly Know Whether Their Marriage Will Be Satisfying. McNulty JK et al., Science. 2013.


Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Psychoneuroimmu…what? psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). This week Nature took a closer look at the field of PNI which aims to understnad how the nervous and the immune systems interact with each other, or in other words – how one’s mental state can affect the whole body and his/ her health. See how one biologist is trying to tackle this question by sound science.

Immunology: The Pursuit of Happiness. Marchant J. Nature. 2013.


Optimizing Prevention – How to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Kelly Jamieson Thomas


Every October we don our pink ribbons and draw awareness to breast cancer. This tradition is a wonderful way to bring us together to discuss how we may move forward in our fight against breast cancer. In the United States, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. During their lifetime, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer—a startling statistic for any woman to face. Of those diagnosed, only 5-10% carry genetic mutations in BRCA genes and less than 15% have family members with breast cancer, which indicates that most breast cancer cases are not hereditary. This gives us hope that we can lower breast cancer risk through prevention. In honor of breast cancer awareness month, let’s focus on how we can optimize prevention in addition to how we can develop a cure.


What can we do to lower the percentage of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer below 12%? We can change our diet to include particular foods that may aid our bodies in preventing cancer, thereby lowering our risk. Although research on this has had conflicting results, there are many studies that demonstrate that diet affects cancer risk. When patients are treated with chemotherapy, tamoxifen, herceptin, and etcetera the results aren’t always a “cured” patient, but we still treat patients with the therapies we have available. In light of this, shouldn’t we pay more heed to the studies demonstrating that consuming certain foods may also help us prevent disease onset? Two changes we can make to lower our risk of breast cancer are increasing our dietary fiber intake and eating more cruciferous vegetables.


High Fiber Intake and Breast Cancer

Several pieces of epidemiologic and scientific research support the link between higher fiber intake and lower breast cancer risk. A meta-analysis that analyzed the results of over 15 studies examining the role of dietary fiber in breast cancer prevention, published in Annals of Oncology, found that the greatest reduction in risk (approximately 25%) was observed when women consumed over 25 grams of soluble fiber per day. Studies have shown that modified citrus pectin (a soluble fiber) reduced tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis in mice. A diet high in fiber reduced mammary tumor incidence in rat models. Epidemiologic studies have found lower levels of circulating estrogen and androstenedione (a precursor to estrogen) associated with high fiber intake. The anti-cancer protection fiber effects may be the result of fiber binding estrogen in the bowels, resulting in the removal of some estrogen, thereby preventing it from affecting the cells in breast tissue. High intake of dietary fiber also reduces the risk of becoming overweight/obese, which is a well-established risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. For me, this evidence is a great reason to add soluble fiber to my meals.


How can we up our soluble fiber intake?

For breakfast, try a bowl of oatmeal topped with strawberries, blueberries, and flax seeds. For snack, enjoy an apple, orange, or pear. For dinner, add some kidney beans or lentils to your meal. The average American consumes 15 grams of fiber per day. To reach 25+ grams, and potentially decrease your risk up to 25%, just add 1/2 cup of beans or two apples each day.


Cruciferous Vegetables and Breast Cancer

Cruciferous vegetables are another source of food that can offer us protection from cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are packed with carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation caused by free radicals. Cruciferous vegetables are also abundant in glucosinolates, sulfur-containing chemicals that are broken down during digestion, forming biologically active compounds (indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, isothiocyanates) that act as chemo protective agents. Indole-3-carbinol (an indole) and sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate), two of active compounds formed when cruciferous vegetables are digested, have both been shown to inhibit cancer growth in mice and rates and induce apoptosis, programmed cell death, in human tumor cells. Indoles and isothiocyanates may offer anti-cancer protection by causing an increase in the levels of BRCA1 and BRCA2 proteins aid in repairing damaged DNA, a decrease in inflammatory molecules, and an increase in detoxification enzymes that protect DNA against damage from carcinogens and free radicals. A meta-analysis, published in Breast, of 13 epidemiologic studies indicated that high cruciferous vegetable consumption was associated with a 15% decrease in breast cancer risk. A study of European women who ate only one serving per week of cruciferous vegetables indicated that their breast cancer risk decreased up to 17%.


How can we add these extraordinary vegetables to our daily life?

Make a delicious salad with arugula, watercress, and kale. Snack on lightly steamed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower for an added dose of glucosinolates.


[quote]Let’s focus on how we can optimize prevention in addition to how we can develop a cure.[/quote]

The concept that changes in our diet can lower our cancer risk is not a new one. We know it’s possible to lower our risk by making conscious decisions about the foods we eat—the fuel for our cells to run properly through the course of our long lives. If we make small changes now, only two of which include increasing our fiber and cruciferous vegetable intake, we can help prevent cancer. Let’s draw awareness to breast cancer prevention and lower our risk through changes in the way we eat.