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Study challenges banning antiperspirants in breast cancer patients on radiotherapy

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Women can safely use antiperspirants during radiation treatment for breast cancer, despite fears to the contrary, according to a US study.

Patients undergoing daily radiation therapy for breast cancer are commonly told they should not use antiperspirant for fear that it could cause greater radiation damage to the skin.

“Providers should be more liberal in letting patients use antiperspirants during radiation treatment”

Brian Baumann

The new US study found that about eight out of every 10 patients reported being told by a health professional not to use antiperspirants. But their study also showed there was no difference in the radiation skin dose absorbed by the patients with or without these deodorants.

The study, published in Radiotherapy and Oncology this month, tackled two key areas. First, the researchers developed a survey to find out what percentage of clinicians told their patients not to use antiperspirants, and what percentage of patients said they received that advice.

Of the 105 doctors and nurses who responded, 82% said they regularly told patients not to use antiperspirants during the course of radiation treatment. Among 92 women who had received radiotherapy for breast cancer, 79% said their healthcare providers advised them to avoid using deodorant for the duration of their treatment.

Researchers then sought to find out if antiperspirants really did increase the surface dose of radiation on the skin. For this portion, they used optically stimulated luminescent dosimeters (OSLDs), a common device for measuring the amount of surface radiation absorbed with each dose.

They used three squares of paper – one with nothing on it, one with a thick coating of standard antiperspirant, and one with a thick coating of extra-strength antiperspirant.

They placed the squares of paper in the beam’s path and measured the absorbed radiation dose with OSLDs.

“We found no significant difference in surface dose with or without antiperspirant,” said Dr Brian Baumann from the University of Pennsylvania. His team also moved the beam to four different angles, but found it did not lead to different results.

He said: “Our study suggests that antiperspirants can be safely used during breast radiotherapy without risking increased skin side effects.

“This study shows providers should be more liberal in letting patients use antiperspirants during radiation treatment, which may improve patient quality-of-life,” he added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I had never used antiperspirant during my radiotherapy and I still received radiation burns I was told to wash with water before and after the therapy which I followed I also used the moisturiser provided but I had horrendous radiation burns maybe I was just inlucky.

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