If you are one of the millions of women who use permanent hair dye or chemical straighteners and heard about the recent study that was published on December 4, 2019 in the International Journal of Cancer, I am sure you are wondering if you should discontinue use of these hair care products.  The study findings were based on data collected from 46,709 women between the ages of 35 and 74, with a sister who had breast cancer. Results showed that use of permanent dye was associated with 45% higher risk of breast cancer in black women and 7% higher risk in white women. Use of personal straightener use was associated with increased breast cancer risk, with higher risk with high frequency of use.  

What is the study really telling you?

Hair dyes and straighteners contain thousands of chemicals. The study does not attribute the risk to any single ingredient.  The results only show an association between use of these products and increase in breast cancer risk and not a cause-effect relationship. The data for the study was collected from women who had a first degree relative with breast cancer, so it is difficult to exactly apply the results of the study to a general population. Although there have been similar studies in the past, it always showed mixed results. This is the first time a large-scale study has shown a clear association.

Putting it in perspective:

1 in 8 U.S. women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

There are important risk factors that you cannot change like getting older and having family history of breast cancer.  And there are some significant risk factors that you can control such as smoking tobacco, obesity, lack of physical activity, drinking alcohol.

Your take away!

The study shows only an association between use of these products and breast cancer risk, not a cause-effect relationship. But the results are important and should not be completely ignored either. For now,  you can take few steps to reduce your risk factors until further research is available.  

  • Reduce the frequency of using chemical hair straighteners if you cannot avoid it
  • Formaldehyde free hair straighteners (although the study did not attribute risk factor to formaldehyde, it is a known carcinogen)
  • Use semi-permanent or temporary hair dye, which the study showed to not have the same risk factors
  • Use Natural plant based, ammonia-free hair dye        
  • Reduce the risk factors that you can change
  • Always follow the foundation principles of good heath such as healthy diet and lifestyle. Some of the well studies cancer preventive strategies based on diet and life style are
  1. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  2. Regular exercise and physical activity
  3. Actively manage stress
  4. Reduce intake of red meat and processed foods
  5. Limit alcohol intake
  6. Reduce intake of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods

The information and other content provided in this blog are for information purpose only, and not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider.

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