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Beware women! Permanent hair dye and straighteners may increase breast cancer risk

By: Team Ifairer | Posted: 04-12-2019
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Beware women! Permanent hair dye and straighteners may increase breast cancer risk
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Women who use permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners may get more than just shinier, brighter hair, according to a new study. Public health experts who studied the hair care habits of more than 46,000 women across the US from 2003 to 2009 have found that women who permanently dye their hair tend to also be roughly 9% more likely than other women to develop breast cancer. In the study, conducted in women who had at least one sister with breast cancer, 55% of women surveyed said they'd used permanent hair dye in the past 12 months.

Corresponding study author Alexandra White told Insider that her study findings should be treated with some caution. "Relative risk sounds very high, but these are not huge increases in risk," she said. "These point estimates are small in magnitude, and need to be put in context of everything else we know that influences breast cancer risk."

Black women may be the most in danger of all. Those who dyed their hair at least once in a year had a 45% greater chance of developing breast cancer, compared to other black women who did not dye their hair. Those who dyed their hair most frequently (every five to eight weeks or more) were 60% more likely to contract breast cancer.

Chemical straighteners appear to increase risk, too; women who used those every month or two were about 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than others. "It's kind of this additional burden that [black women] are experiencing by their use of chemical straighteners that, really, white women aren't using," White said. "74% of black women in our study are using chemical straighteners and only 3% of white women [are]."

Other studies have shown how potentially cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hair dye can enter the bloodstream, circulate through the body, and reach breast tissue. Hair dressers, who deal with dyes and other hair chemicals day in and day out, are already known to have increased cancer risk, but this study took salon workers out of the results and still found a link between dyed hair and more breast cancer cases. Since it focused only on women who already had a sister with breast cancer, it helped control for any genetic factors, like the presence of a BRCA breast cancer gene.
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