Study Links Hair Straighteners, Dyes to Breast Cancer

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Scientists at the National Institutes of Health found that women who use permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who don't use these products.

The study found that women who use permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who don't use these products. Tanya Kovacevic, the manager of FOS Living Organic Hair Salon in Garden City, says most of the salon's clients are pregnant women or cancer survivors who are looking to be safer when it comes to chemicals. "It's also possible that the application method or the amount of dye required might be influencing the difference". It can also damage DNA in cells, which increases risk for breast cancer, according to breastcancer.org. The women, aged between 35 and 74, answered demographic and lifestyle questions, including about their hair product use for the last 12 months.

Breast cancer is the number two cause of death in Ghana and one of the leading causes of death globally.

The association between straightener use and breast cancer was similar among black and white women, but straightener use was much more common among black women, according to researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Co-author Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch, cautioned that although there is some prior evidence to support the association with chemical straighteners, these results need to be replicated in other studies.

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But for African American women, their risk was significantly higher, in fact, it was 45% higher when compared to non-users.

PHOTO: In this stock photo a women appears to have her hair colored. However black women are more likely to use them, with about 75% of black women in the study reporting they straighten their hair.

OTIS BRAWLEY: We've got numerous studies to show us in the laboratory that these hair dyes, and especially hair straighteners, cause cancer in laboratory animals.

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. The research team found little to no increase in breast cancer risk for semi-permanent or temporary dye use.

Recent case control studies have reported a 25% increased risk between hair dye and breast and bladder cancer. To reduce risk, researcher White says women might want to choose these products instead.

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