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Study links dye and straighteners to breast cancer risk

05 December 2019

Data from the use of semi-permanent or temporary hair dye use showed little or no increase of risk. And that link was significantly higher for African American women.

The study included data from 46,709 women in the USA 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.

In a study published Wednesday, researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that using permanent hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners can result in a higher risk of developing breast cancer, compared to women who don't use the products.

"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", White said.

For us, heavy hair dye use (once or more every 5-8 weeks), increased our risk up to a whopping 60 percent, compared to only 8 percent for white women.

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Of the participants who reported the use of permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners, the research found that they had a greater chance of being among the 2,800 participants who ended up developing breast cancer.

As with any study making such a claim, its co-author, Dale Sandler, added caution to the team's findings.

Previous research with animals has found links between chemicals in hair dye and straighteners and cancer. "While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer".

Erin Nau, a licensed clinical social worker with the Adelphi Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline, says it can't be determined what exactly causes cancer. "No, it is not caused by your deodorant or your underwire bras or wearing your cellphone in your sports bra when you work out".

PHOTO: In this stock photo a women appears to have her hair colored. "However, as the article readily admits, more study is necessary".

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"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.

While researchers stress that more work needs to be done, these findings are important, especially given that Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Although the numbers may seem alarming, researchers said the study was not an indication that such products should be banned or pulled from the market, just one more thing for women to be aware of. Look directly at hair straighteners, the risk can go up to 30 percent, regardless of race.

Alcohol consumption increases levels of estrogen and other hormones that are linked to breast cancer.

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Study links dye and straighteners to breast cancer risk