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Hair Coloring Can Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

Hair Coloring Can Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

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  • Exposure to compounds found in some hair products including hair dyes can increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • The use of dark hair dye shades was associated with 51% increased overall risk and 72% increased risk of estrogen receptor breast cancer disease among African Americans.
  •  Dual use of hair straighteners/relaxers and hair dyes, as well as home-kit application of relaxers, was also associated with more than 2-fold increased risk among Whites. 

 Women who frequently dye their hair are at a greater risk of contracting breast cancer.

Apart from obesity and hormonal imbalance, there are lifestyle factors which increase the risk of breast cancer.


Frequent use of hair colors and hair straighteners can increase the risk of breast cancer. Professor Kefah Mokbel, a breast cancer surgeon at the Princess Grace Hospital in London, reviewed studies on whether there is any link between hair dyes and breast cancer and it was found that there is 14 percent increase in the disease among women who dye their hair frequently.

"Although further work is required to confirm our results, our findings suggest that exposure to hair dyes may contribute to breast cancer risk," researchers mentioned.

Hair Colors, Hair Relaxers Can Cause Breast Cancer

A research team at the Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey collected data to to examine the prevalence and patterns of use of hair products, specifically hair dye, chemical relaxers and deep conditioning creams and their associations with breast cancer risk and whether the risks vary by estrogen receptor (ER) status.

A total of 2280 cases (1508 AA and 772 White) and 2005 controls (1290 AA and 715 White) were recruited for the study. The baseline study questionnaire ascertained information on sociodemographics and established and probable breast cancer risk factors, including: family and personal health history, prenatal exposures, reproductive history and hormone use and lifestyle exposures (e.g. hair product use, tobacco smoke exposure, alcohol consumption, physical activity, vitamin use).

Anthropometric measurements (height, weight, waist and hip circumference measures) and body composition measures (lean and fat mass, percent body fat) were also taken at the in-person, baseline interview using standardized protocols and instruments. For breast cancer cases, tumor pathology and hormone receptor data were collected through medical and pathology records.

Study Findings

Regular hair dye use was defined as 'having ever used permanent hair dye for at least 1 year at a rate of ≥2 times per year'. Data collected on patterns of hair dye use included the age women started regularly using hair dye, the typical annual frequency of use, the typical shade used, typical application used (home-kit or salon), total duration (years) of use and frequency of use.

Regular use of chemical relaxers/straighteners (referred to as 'relaxers' hereafter) was defined as 'having ever chemically relaxed or straightened hair for at least 1 year'. 

  • Black women who used dark hair dye had an overall 51 percent greater risk of the cancer.
  • The risk of developing estrogen receptor positive breast cancer increased by 72%
  • White women who used chemical relaxers/straighteners had a 74 percent increase in risk. 
  • Chemical composition of hair products marketed for and used among whites may differ from the products marketed for use by African-Americans.
Hazardous Chemicals In Hair Dye

PPD (para-phenylenediamine) is found in dark hair dyes - concentrations of up to six percent are legal and is easily absorbed through the skin on the scalp and the hands.

Lawsone is a naturally occurring chemical, found in henna at concentrations of between one and two percent. But, none the less, it can affect the kidneys, blood supply and stomach.

Ammoniated mercury : These have a bleaching action which enhances color in the hair, but they can cause allergic reactions.

Peroxide: This breaks down the melanin in the shaft to lighten the hair. Can cause allergic reactions and can irritate the skin and lungs, but is not toxic.

Nonylphenol or octylphenol : Members of a group of chemicals which studies suggest are hormone disrupters and bioaccumulators. This means they can build up faster in body fat than they can be broken down.

Aniline dyes are derived from coal tar and used in semi-permanent dyes. It can irritate eyes, skin and mucous membranes, or cause allergic reactions.

  1. Adana AM Llanos et al., Hair product use and breast cancer risk among African American and White women, Carcinogenesis (2017), https:doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgx060.

Source: Medindia

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