Permanent hair dye and straighteners may increase breast cancer risk

Breast Cancer Screening

They followed the women for years and found that women who used permanent hair dyes had an increase risk of breast cancer of about 9 percent. However, research has revealed that the use of chemical hair products increases Black women's risk for cancer even more.

They analyzed data from a large ongoing study of more than 46,000 women between the ages of 35 and 74.

It found white women who used permanent hair dye had a seven percent increased breast cancer risk.

Researchers note that in the United States, breast cancer incidence remains high for all women, and appears to be increasing for non-Hispanic black women, who also are more likely to get diagnose with more aggressive forms of the disease and more likely to die from it.

In the late 1970s, some hair dye chemicals were linked with cancer in laboratory animals, so many manufacturers removed these chemicals from their products. "It's also possible that the application method or the amount of dye required might be influencing the difference".

"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. That jumped to 31 percent when the product was used every five to eight weeks.

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Author Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group said the study's results are pretty conclusive. "For African American women that risk was increased by 45 percent", says Dr. Vance.

Another finding of the study focused on the link between chemical hair straighteners and cancer. The study did not look at the specific ingredients in the products women were using, only at whether they had used the product and whether they developed breast cancer.

Moving forward, Raymond said women reading the study shouldn't panic, adding that continued diet, exercise and regular breast exams are much more important factors to pay attention to.

Erin Nau, a licensed clinical social worker with the Adelphi Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline, says it can't be determined what exactly causes cancer.

When asked if women should stop dyeing or straightening their hair, Sandler said, "We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman's risk". To reduce risk, researcher White says women might want to choose these products instead. Coal-tar hair dyes, according to the agency, includes permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary hair dyes.

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