Dr. Roach: Baking soda another remedy for underarm odor

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 77-year-old female. I had a left-breast lumpectomy (with some lymph nodes removed) about 15 years ago, leaving me with a much heavier right breast. I don’t know whether this plays an important role with my problem.

Since the surgery, I’ve had a problem with underarm odor. I don’t use aluminum-based products. I have tried vinegar, milk of magnesia and a deodorant made from milk of magnesia. Within a matter of just a few hours, I notice quite an odor, particularly in my right armpit, which gets worse as the day goes on. I do not perspire profusely, but do develop some underarm moisture.

Can you think of any reason this is happening, or any remedy that might work for me?


Dear D.M.M.: I would start by trying a nonantiperspirant deodorant. These are not aluminum-based and work well for most people.

If the deodorant doesn’t work, consider another old-fashioned remedy you haven’t tried: baking soda. It changes the pH of the armpit and helps to keep it dry, and both of those things help get rid of odor.

Underarm odor is caused by bacteria that live on our skin; the sweat is odorless. Thus, if you get rid of the bacteria, you can get rid of the odor. I have prescribed topical antibiotics on occasion. Some people have told me that an alcohol-based hand-sanitizing gel helps. It might be that it dries out the skin and also kills bacteria. I would be cautious about overusing this as a solution. The underarm is a sensitive area that can get irritated.

I’d be happy to hear from readers about other solutions for this common problem.

Dear Dr. Roach: It is amazing that doctors throughout the U.S. are so out of touch about the curative properties of cannabinoid oil from cannabis. Doctors have to read and educate themselves on these curative properties so that people can have hope. Ingesting the oil can cure and alleviate cancers of any form in the human body. There is more to cancer medicine than pills and chemo, which destroy so much of the human body.


Dear R.C.: I frequently get letters like this, along the lines that there is a cure for cancer that doctors don’t know about, or that pharmaceutical companies are suppressing a cure in order to make more money. It’s not true. If there were an easy cure for “cancer” (which is actually hundreds of related diseases), we would be using it. Not only our patients, but doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical executives get and die from cancer. Thousands of researchers work long hours searching for pieces of the puzzle that lead to treatment and prevention of cancers. Doctors and researchers go into the medical field because we want to help people, and we all dream of making a discovery that will do just that. Nobody is hiding a successful cancer treatment due to ignorance or greed.

Cannabinoids show promise in the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea. They also have shown, in animal models, a potential benefit in breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer, both in direct antitumor effects and in prevention. Although this news is promising, that’s a long way from showing effectiveness in humans and further still from showing improvement over current accepted treatments.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.