Permanent hair dye, increased breast cancer risk linked in new study

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast Cancer Screening

Hair products contain more than 5,000 chemicals according to researchers, including those with mutagenic and endocrine disrupting properties such as aromatic amines, which can raise cancer risk, according to White. While earlier studies on hair dye and cancer risk included mostly white women, the new study includes 9% African American women.

They analyzed data from a large ongoing study of more than 46,000 women between the ages of 35 and 74. "For African American women that risk was increased by 45 percent", says Dr. Vance. They opine that many factors could potentially contribute to breast cancer and it is unlikely that a single factor like exposure to permanent dyes or hair straighteners puts a woman at risk. "Avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer", they said. Researchers wanted to know whether women who regularly dyed or straightened their hair were also at greater cancer risk. Both black and white women who used hair straighteners were about 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn't use the products.

Kovacevic says any professional grade hair color or hair straightening product will have some chemicals in it. But here's the thing: African-American women are more likely to relax their hair (74 percent compared to 8 percent of white women).

SelectLanguage To Read in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi or Arabic. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on the study published online in the International Journal of Cancer.

I believe women should be aware of this research because millions use these products.

The study shows a significant association, but not a clear cause and effect relationship, said Dr. Jane Raymond, a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh's North Side.

However, the new study "really suggests a plausible link" between certain hair care products and cancer, she said. "However, as the article readily admits, more study is necessary".

"We know the things that can lower the risk of breast cancer, things like exercise, keeping your weight in a healthy range, minimizing alcohol consumption if you are in a high-risk group and, if possible, breastfeed", she said.

ALEXANDRA WHITE: Fifty-five percent of women in our study reported using permanent hair dye in the a year ago. Many women interviewed in the study might also not accurately recall frequency of use, or whether they used permanent or semi-permanent dyes, Cassell reasoned.

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