JUN 18, 2017 10:36 AM PDT

Hair Dyes, Relaxers, and Breast Cancer?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Because hair is such a big part of our culture, it’s not surprising that people can be quite particular about the way their hair looks. And with the multitude of products available on the market, it’s simple to change the color and even the texture of any hair. But for women who love to dye and relax their hair, a new research suggest there may be a link between these products and breast cancer.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

The new study explores the link between popular hair products and breast cancer risks. In particular, chemicals in these products, including dyes and relaxers, have been implicated to be carcinogenic in some animal studies. However, the evidence for this link remains somewhat inconclusive.

To better understand the link, researchers analyzed data from nearly 4,300 women with and without breast cancer. The researchers then teased apart other factors that could have influenced breast cancer risk, such as family medical history, alcohol and smoking status, and physical health. In addition, they also looked at hair product use, including  hair dyes, relaxers or straighteners, and condition creams.

The team found a link between breast cancer and hair product use. Furthermore, the link seemed to differ slightly between white women and African American women. Specifically, black women who used dark hair dyes had a 51 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer. This risk jumps to 72 percent when the team looked only at estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. For white women who used chemical relaxers or straighteners, the risk for breast cancer was increased to 74 percent. Interestingly, the risks were higher for salon dyes, as compared to DIY with home kits.

“These novel findings provide support of a relationship between the use of some hair products and breast cancer risk. Our findings highlight the need for further examinations of the link between the use of hair products as important exposures that may contribute to the development of breast cancer, as well as ways to reduce the associated risks,” the authors wrote in an interview.

Importantly, the study identified a link between two events, hair product use and breast cancer. However, it did not establish a causal relationship. Thus, while the results seem to add more evidence to the carcinogenic effects of hair products, the link still remains inconclusive. Nevertheless, it’s probably not a bad idea to let your hair take a break from the chemicals every once in a while.

Additional source: MNT

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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