Some Hair Relaxers, Hair Dyes Could Increase Breast Cancer Risk: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that some hair dyes and hair relaxers may increase breast cancer risks among women.

Researchers from Rutgers Cancer Institute report that African American women who use dark hair dyes and Caucasian women who use relaxers and straighteners both face increased cancer risks according to findings published earlier this month in the medical journal Carcinogenesis.

The study looked at data on more than 4,000 women nationwide, focusing on hair dyes, chemical relaxers, and cholesterol or placenta-containing conditioners. Researchers found that hair dye use was more common among white women, while relaxers and deep conditioners were more common among black women.

According to the findings, the use of dark hair dyes was linked to a 51% increased risk of breast cancer among black women, while the use of chemical relaxers increased the risk of breast cancer by 74% among white women. In addition, when white women used both relaxers and hair dyes, the risk of breast cancer more than doubled.

Some hair care products have been linked to illnesses, due to the release of large amounts of formaldehyde in hair relaxers, which is a likely cancer-causing agent, experts say.

In 2011, the FDA warned that the straightening product Brazillian Blowout was making some salon workers and customers ill due to the formaldehyde released when the product was exposed to high heat.

Formaldehyde is a colorless gas used in a number of chemical products as a disinfectant, resins, plastics, textiles, car parts, adhesives and as an embalming agent. It is classified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA and is considered a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Researchers in the latest study cautioned that their findings do not prove that hair care products cause breast cancer, and say they are just one of many potentially harmful exposures that could contribute to breast cancer risks.

“These novel findings provide support a relationship between the use of some hair products and breast cancer,” the study concludes. “Further examinations of hair products as important exposures contributing to breast cancer carcinogenesis are necessary.”

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