Study finds permanent hair dye and straighteners increase risk for breast cancer

Study links hair dye to breast cancer risk

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - If you use permanent hair dyes or chemical straighteners, there could be cause for concern.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health found that women who use these chemicals have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who don’t.

For some women, we’re talking about a 50 percent greater risk of getting breast cancer.

“Actually it was a really striking study,” says Dr. Katisha Vance. She’s a Medical Oncologist and hematologist at Princeton Baptist Medical Center. “This is a really strong association that is hard to ignore.”

The study found that for African American women that risk of getting breast cancer was even higher when they used permanent hair dyes, or chemical straighteners.

“In this study they looked at over 46,000 women, and it was called a sister study. They looked at women who had no breast cancer diagnosis, but had sisters who did. 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. For African American women that risk was increased by 45 percent,” says Dr. Vance.

And it seems how often the products are used matters too. For women who use the permanent hair dyes more than every 8 weeks, the increase in risk jumped 60 percent.

“If you already have other risk factors for breast cancer this is something you have to take into account. Because in my mind this is one of those risk factors that is modifiable, you don’t have to use permanent hair dye,” says Dr. Vance.

Like most studies, doctors say more research is needed, but Dr. Vance explains that this isn’t the first time a study has been done trying to connect chemicals in dyes and straighteners, and breast cancer.

“There have been studies done in the past looking for this association and this is probably one of the biggest ones that’s ever been done and shows the strongest association,” explains Dr. Vance.

Dr. Vance says industry changes could be needed in light of this study.

“We may need to be looking at this industry as one that is regulated more. When we talk about hair dyes and hair straighteners we are talking about an unregulated industry, these products will have more than 5000 chemicals in them and very often women will have no idea what their stylist is using,” says Dr. Vance.

Of course, doctors emphasize the importance of reducing cancer risks by eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding too much alcohol.

Dr. Vance also suggests women use semi-permanent hair dyes instead.

“I think there is so much to be said for having pride in the hair that god gave you and if a woman is able to embrace that it’s a win on a bunch of different fronts,” says Dr. Vance.

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