The debate over whether antiperspirants and deodorants are linked to rising levels of breast cancer has been reignited with the publication of new evidence.

The debate over whether antiperspirants and deodorants are linked to rising levels of breast cancer has been reignited with the publication of new evidence.

Scientists detected the preservative chemical parabens - used in some underarm products, make-up and foods - in samples of breast cancer tumours.

The cosmetics industry and cancer experts urged the public not to panic over the research, pointing out that scientists had not found a causal link between the ingredients of the products and cancer.

The possibility of chemicals in antiperspirants being linked to cancer emergedyears ago and has been the subject of several studies, notably by Dr Philippa Darbre from Reading University. Her latest study, published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, looked at 20 human breast tumours, measuring the concentration of parabens in the tissue. Her team found that the chemicals were present in a form suggesting that their route of entry was topical, through the skin, rather than oral.

Dr Darbre said: "Parabens are used as preservatives in thousands of cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products, but this is the first study to show their accumulation in human tissues. It demonstrates if people are exposed to these chemicals, then the chemicals will accumulate in their bodies." She added: "Parabens have been shown to be able to mimic the action of the female hormone oestrogen and oestrogen can drive the growth of human breast tumours.

Dr Richard Sullivan, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Although this is an interesting study it should be noted the sample size is very small. No causal relationship has ever been found between underarm cosmetics containing parabens and breast cancer."

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