The impact of aluminium salts
on the incidence
of breast cancer

The laboratory of environmental carcinogenesis

This research group is dedicated to the study of potential environmental carcinogens. More specifically, investigations of this research group have focused for several years on the toxic effects of aluminum salts on the cells of the mammary gland. Aluminum salts are present at relatively high concentrations in several products of frequent use, including most deodorants, sunscreens and some drugs. The work of this laboratory has shown that aluminium salts are not harmless. They induce marked alterations in the cells of the mammary gland, recapitulating the key stages of malignant transformation. In conventional toxicological tests using bacteria, aluminum salts have no detectable mutagenic effect.

In the last two publications, (Tenan et al., Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22, 9515 (; Mandriota et al ., Int J Mol Sci. 2020; 21: 9332 (, developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford, this research group shows that mammalian cells - including those of the mammary gland – when exposed in vitro to aluminum salts, rapidly incorporate this metal. Within the following 24 hours, genomic instability appears in these cells as an alteration in the structure and number of chromosomes.

The latter effect is known to occur during malignant transformation caused by proven carcinogens and therefore confirms the carcinogenic potential of aluminium on breast cells.

These observations identify for the first time an environmental chemical that may account, at least in part, for the increase in the incidence of breast cancer observed in our societies. The incrimination of aluminum salts in breast carcinogenesis is reminiscent of the history of asbestos: a compound present in the environment, inexpensive, endowed with attractive properties for the industry, and whose deleterious effects for health have escaped traditional toxicological screening methods.

This work could help to ban the use of aluminum salts by the cosmetics industry and ultimately reduce the occurrence of breast cancer. It could also convince health authorities of the inadequacy of the toxicological screening tests currently used by the industry to introduce chemicals potentially dangerous to human health into the agri-food and cosmetic chains.

The work of this research group is made possible by the support of a private Foundation in  Geneva and by current or past grants from a generous donor represented by CARIGEST SA, from the Ligue Genevoise contre le Cancer, from the Fondation pour l’innovation sur le cancer et la biologie, as well as from private donors.