New research findings have uncovered that black women who use certain hair dyes and white women using certain chemical relaxants have a higher risk of breast cancer. The study involved over 4,000 women.
The study found that black women who used dark brown of black hair dyes had a 51 percent higher risk for breast cancer. White women who used hair relaxers had a 71 percent higher risk for breast cancer. Although the study uncovered an association between these hair products and breast cancer risk, it did not explain the connection.
The study’s lead author Adana Llanos explained, “Our findings do not suggest that simply using hair dyes, relaxers or both will cause a woman to get breast cancer. The reality is that we regularly encounter a variety of harmful exposures, which we have no control over.”
The takeaway here is that we should be limiting our exposure to harsh chemicals as much as possible.
Harsh hair products increase cancer risk
There has been a long-standing debate regarding the safety of hair chemicals like dyes and relaxants. There haven’t been many conclusive studies on the topic, so it’s often been unclear whether or not these products are safe to use.
In the past, studies on hair products and safety didn’t include black women. This study is the first of its kind The women in the study were asked about their use of hair products. Among those surveyed were 2,280 breast cancer survivors.
The products that the researchers analyzed included hair dyes, chemical relaxers, and deep conditioners that contained cholesterol or placenta.
It isn’t clear why there’s an association between the use of these hair products and breast cancer. Llanos suggested, “One hypothesis is that the chemical composition of hair products marketed for and used among whites may differ from the products marketed for use by African-Americans. More research is needed to determine specifically which compounds and chemicals are dangerous and even which specific consumer products and brands contain those chemicals.”
After adjusting for other factors, Llanos suggests that the association between hair product use and breast cancer may come down to lifestyle habits.
Toxicologist Linda Loretz explained, “Those who use cosmetics and personal care products can feel confident that they are protected by a combination of strong federal safety regulations enacted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] and the science-based safety assessments from the companies that manufacture these products.”
Does this mean that you need to stop treating your hair in fear of breast cancer? No, not necessarily. There are lots of factors that can contribute to a person’s risk of developing breast cancer, such as family history, genetics, and lifestyle habits. If you are concerned about your own risk, you should speak to your doctor.
Related: Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of breast cancer: Study