Study suggests hair dye, chemical straighteners may increase breast cancer risk

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s a health alert that could affect a lot of women.

A study published online Wednesday in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that if you color or chemically straighten your hair, you could be putting yourself at risk of developing breast cancer.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health said they found that women who use two common beauty products -- permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners -- may be associated with an elevated risk for breast cancer than women who don’t use those products.

Using data from more than 46,000 women, who ranged in age from 35 to 74, in the Sister Study, researchers found that women who regularly used permanent hair dye in the year prior to enrolling in the study were 9% more likely than women who didn’t dye their hair to develop breast cancer.

The numbers varied greatly by race. The study showed African American women who used permanent hair dye had a 45% higher breast cancer risk than nonusers. Among black women, according to the data, using permanent dyes every five to eight weeks or more was associated with a 60% increased risk of breast cancer as compared with an 8% increased risk for white women. Researchers said they found little to no increase in breast cancer risk for the use of semi-permanent or temporary hair dye.

Researchers said they also found that women who used hair straighteners at least every five to eight weeks were about 30% more likely to develop breast cancer. Though the association between straightener use and breast cancer was similar in black and white women, researchers said, straightener use was much more common among African American women.

It’s not really clear why there are racial variations in hair dye use, but previous research supports that products made for black women could have higher levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

The data is based on patterns and trends, so it doesn’t confirm a direct cause, but it adds to other research that suggests carcinogens could be in commonly used beauty products.

While there isn’t enough evidence to draw a direct link, doctors are calling for more trials designed to specifically look at this one factor as it pertains to cancer risks.

In the meantime, you might want to embrace your natural color.

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