Monday, 30 January 2012

IMFW: Aluminium Does What Now?

Today's Interesting Medical Fact of the Week is dedicated to my lovely boyfriend. No, he doesn't have a weird and unusual illness, or even just a particularly hilarious deformity - but he does have a deodorant made from Japanese sea minerals.

"What are Japanese sea minerals?" I said.
"I don't know," he said. "But it doesn't have aluminium in."
"Do deodorants normally have aluminium in?" I asked, exposing my ignorance.
"Yes," he said. "It gives you cancer."

At that point, my brain practically exploded and I resolved to investigate whether or not he was just winding me up. And thus, my next Interesting Medical Fact was born.

As it turns out, aluminium is a common ingredient in anti-perspirants rather than simply deodorants. But here's the thing: it can be absorbed through the skin, and it's been suggested that there may be a link between use of such products and the development of breast cancer. The short story is that there's no conclusive evidence for a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer.

Looking at Wikipedia, though, it's not just cancer you have to be worried about if too much aluminium gets into your system. It's a neurotoxin, high levels of aluminium are present in the brains of many Alzheimer's patients - and one study linked the long-term use of antiperspirants containing aluminium with the accumulation of levels of alumium that may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The good news, however, is that a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer's has not been found.

Finally, the only concrete evidence for these antperspirants adversely affecting your health: renal dysfunction. No, aluminium doesn't cause it, but people with renal dysfunction are advised to consult their doctor before using deodorants which contain aluminium. Damaged kidneys cannot clear aluminium from your body as effectively, and thus patients with kidney failure may be at increased risk of building up potentially dangerous levels of aluminium in their systems.

Of course, the fact that no proof has yet been found doesn't mean that no proof will be found for a link between aluminium anti-perspirants and cancer or Alzheimers. But for the time being, they are officially considered safe.

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