Permanent Hair Dye, Chemical Straighteners May Boost Risk of Breast Cancer

Permanent Hair Dye, Chemical Straighteners May Boost Risk of Breast Cancer

The NIH used a sample size of 46,709 women.

"All these chemicals are probably not good for you, but if there was a direct connection, one would think that we would be seeing many more women developing breast cancer because so many women use these products on their hair", she said.

In general, women using permanent dye had a 9% higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Alexandra White, a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences epidemiologist and one of the study authors, told Time Magazine that this may be due to differences in the formulations of the dyes and straighteners used by women identifying as black compared to those identifying as white. The risk increased by 60% for those who used these products every eight weeks or more.

"The study was USA based, so it's also not clear if the products would be similar to those used in the United Kingdom". Still, the usage of these products can cause breast cancer among black women.

The study recruited breast-cancer free women whose sisters had been diagnosed with disease. White women who use hair dye does not have any significant risk. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer. "These results suggest that chemicals in hair products may play a role in breast carcinogenesis".

The study doesn't pinpoint which of the chemicals caused the damage, but makes some suggestions: Some aromatic amines, chemicals also found in tobacco smoke and industrial byproducts, disrupt the endocrine system, and some dyes have been found to induce tumors in rats' mammary glands.


The study findings should be understood in context, says Dr. Otis Brawley, a medical oncologist with Johns Hopkins University. The actual risk found for use of these hair treatments is quite low, he adds, especially compared with other known carcinogens like tobacco or radiation. "This is a very weak signal that these things might be causing cancer in the population", he says.

Researchers say that more research needs to be done.

"Sometimes science just can not give us the answers that we want it to give us", says Brawley.

So, if you are concerned about your personal breast cancer risk, it's always best to just talk to your doctor about it, and not worry too much about scary headlines. "But it should raise questions for our primary care providers".

Women that reported current permanent and semi-permanent dye use were asked whether they had used dark colors (black, brown, auburn/dark red), light colors (blonde, light red) or both.

That risk was even higher among black women who dyed their hair every one or two months.

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