Soap and Cancer: What You Don’t Know about Your Antibacterial Body Wash!

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Multiple toiletries including mouthwash, toothbrush, razer and antibacterial body wash that could be detrimental to your health.Triclosan is an ingredient commonly found in a variety of consumer goods such as detergent, antibacterial body wash, soap, and a few brands of toothpaste. Its primary purpose is the prevention and reduction of bacterial contamination. Triclosan is absorbed through the skin via the use of antibacterial hand soaps and other products. This may be why research has found traces of triclosan in 75 percent of study participants.

In an effort to determine whether there were any negative side effects of triclosan use, researchers conducted a study on mice to determine the mechanisms of action in a biological system. The study demonstrated an indirect correlation between triclosan and the development of cancer through intermediate conditions, liver toxicity, and fibrosis. Continued exposure interfered with the normal functioning of a constitutive androstane receptor, a protein responsible for detoxification and cleansing foreign chemicals from the body. With the additional stress placed upon the liver, liver cells were found increasingly forming excess tissue as a method of compensation. This excess production, in turn, promoted tumor formation. Therefore, it isn’t accurate to say that triclosan is the direct cause of cancer. Rather, it supports the development of an environment, within the body, that is conducive to cancer.

The study also found that triclosan use increases the risk of food allergies. Not all bacteria are bad, and in fact some bacteria are essential for your survival. Overusing antibacterial body wash and other soap can diminish the body’s natural defenses such that good bacteria can no longer play their role in defending against allergies.

A person using one hand to use a push-down liquid soap dispenser and squirt liquid antibacterial body wash or soap into their other hand.All that being said, the use of triclosan encourages bacterial resistance. You’ve probably heard that the overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. What you may not know, is that the same resistance can occur with antibacterial products, such as those used in your home. The fact is, no antibacterial product can kill every bacteria every time. Bacteria, despite their single-celled nature, are tenacious survivors. Bacteria that survive exposure to an antibiotic or antibacterial product become resistant to that product. The resistance grows stronger with every exposure to the antibacterial. As the bacteria reproduce, they pass on that resistance to the new bacteria, creating a whole new strain of bacteria that is very difficult to kill, while depleting beneficial bacteria necessary for good health.

However, study’s findings are not conclusive and are limited in several ways. First, only two experiments were conducted. One of which found no correlation between triclosan and cancer formation. Second, the study that did find a correlation tested only 12 mice, This is a relatively small sample size compared to more robust studies. Third, the exposure to triclosan involved larger amounts than any individual would use normally. These limitations raise the question: do the benefits outweigh the possible side effects of triclosan?

This also leads to the question: how can you protect yourself from the potentially harmful effects of triclosan given that it so widely and commonly used? The best answer seems to be to reduce your use of products containing triclosan, especially those with higher concentration. In particular, limit your use of antibacterial body wash and liquid hand soap: the concentration of triclosan is high and the health benefit is minimal. Another study verified that toothpaste containing triclosan has no negative effect on the normal functioning of a human body. Concentrations of triclosan in toothpaste are also low, so the regular use of toothpaste can be maintained. However, there are plenty of toothpaste brands that do not contain triclosan. Despite the low concentrations of triclosan in toothpaste, it may still be worth switching. Even small amounts of toxins can add up, especially in a body that is unable to remove them effectively.

Dr.Lam’s Adrenal Fatigue Perspective

The liver surrounded by scaled up representations of pathogenic bacteria which may have developed resistance to antibacterial body wash due to its overuse.When the adrenals are weak and the body is low on energy, the liver will often become congested. In the case of triclosan, which was found to be toxic to the liver, and to interfere with its normal functioning, this added stress on your liver can make you feel worse liver congestion can exacerbate your symptoms. Thus, products containing triclosan should be avoided whenever possible, and used with caution when they are necessary. You do not need any extra stress on your liver.


Journal Reference: Mei-Fei Yueh, Koji Taniguchi, Shujuan Chen, Ronald M. Evans, Bruce D. Hammock, Michael Karin, and Robert H. Tukey. The commonly used antimicrobial additive triclosan is a liver tumor promoter. PNAS, November 17, 2014

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Multiple toiletries including mouthwash, toothbrush, razer and antibacterial body wash that could be detrimental to your health.