Q. I have heard about a link between aluminum in antiperspirants and breast cancer. I have also read that aluminum may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Every antiperspirant I have checked has aluminum as its main ingredient, which worries me.
I switched to a deodorant of mineral salts to get away from aluminum, but I’ve just discovered that it contains alum. Is that aluminum? The crystal works great, but I don’t want aluminum in my life in any form. Is there anything I can use that doesn’t contain aluminum?
A. There is a controversy about links between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. Neither association has been proven. Nevertheless, there is some troubling research suggesting a possible connection (Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Sept. 2005; Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, May, 2007). Scientists do not know whether enough aluminum is absorbed from antiperspirants to pose a risk.
Alum, which is found in many “natural” rock or stone deodorants, is aluminum potassium sulfate. Ammonium alum (ammonium aluminum sulfate) is also used in deodorant crystals.
We don’t know whether there is a problem with such products, but there is a safe alternative, milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide). We recently received the following message from a reader: “After searching the Web for how to get rid of strong underarm odor, I found your article on the laxative method. I have been using milk of magnesia under my arms ever since. It is a life saver!”