Study Links Hair Dyes, Cancer

Breast Cancer Screening

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.

The study included data from 46,709 women in the US and Puerto Rico who were part of the Sister Study - women who had no history of breast cancer but had at least one sister diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Women who reported using permanent hair dye or chemical straighteners had a higher risk of developing breast cancer over an eight year follow up period", says Alexandra White of the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.

The risk was notably higher among black women. "In our study, we see a higher breast cancer risk associated with hair dye use, and the effect is stronger in African American women, particularly those who are frequent users".

African American women who used permanent dyes were significantly more likely to develop breast cancer than their white peers.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Ghana has an incidence rate of 2,260 per 100,000 women and 1% of cases of breast cancer is in men. There may be a reason for that: Hair dye is heavily associated with cancer.

NEIGHMOND: The elevations in breast cancer risk may sound high, but Brawley says they don't compare to known risk factors like obesity and lack of exercise.

"This is a very weak signal that these things might be causing cancer in the population", he says. "No, it is not caused by your deodorant or your underwire bras or wearing your cellphone in your sports bra when you work out". As for chemical straighteners, risk didn't vary by race. For example, long-term clinical trials with a control group and placebo would be more definitive but this type of study "would be hard if not impossible to do". But findings from other human studies on the association between hair dyes and straighteners and cancer have been inconsistent.

"There are many points that I take issue with in this study", said Dr. Lauren Cassell, chief of breast surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Researchers analyzed data from an ongoing study called the Sister Study, looking at medical records and lifestyle surveys from 46,709 women between the ages of 35 and 74.

Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, one of the report's lead authors and a cancer prevention researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, notes that while being physically active, keeping a healthy weight, and reducing alcohol intake will help you lower your breast cancer risk, you can't control your genes, and you may still get diagnosed with breast cancer even if you run marathons and eat buckets of spinach and kale.

Semi-permanent or temporary dye found little to no increase in breast cancer risk.

The study, conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was published this week in the International Journal of Cancer.

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