Permanent Hair Dye and Straighteners Can Increase Risk of Breast Cancer in Women, Study Says

Research found that permanent hair dyeing posed an even more significant risk of breast cancer among African-American women

Hair Dyeing
Photo: Getty

The common practice of coloring hair may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, new research finds.

In a study published Wednesday, researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that using permanent hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners can result in a higher risk of developing breast cancer, compared to women who don’t use the products.

Scientists also found that the risk increased among women who treated their hair with the products on a more regular basis.

“Researchers have been studying the possible link between hair dye and cancer for a long time, but results have been inconsistent,” Alexandra White, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “In our study, we see a higher breast cancer risk associated with hair dye use.”

The study, however, found “little to no increase” in breast cancer risk among women who used semi-permanent or temporary dyes.

Hair Dyeing
Hair dyeing. Getty

For the study, which is featured in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers reviewed data from a previous study that involved 46,709 female subjects.

Findings showed that women who consistently used permanent hair dye in the year prior to the study were 9 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than the women who did not use permanent dye.

The conclusions were even more alarming for African-American women. Among this group, the use of permanent dyes every five to eight weeks (or more frequently) resulted in a 60 percent increase in breast cancer risk compared to the 8 percent increase among white women.

Another finding of the study focused on the link between chemical hair straighteners and cancer.

Women who used hair straighteners at least every five to eight weeks were about 30 percent more likely to get breast cancer, according to the study, though its authors say the results need to be replicated in future studies.

Dale Sandler, one of the study’s authors, said that while no single factor can explain a woman’s risk for cancer, some women may want to consider avoiding permanent hair dyes.

“We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk,” Sandler said in a statement. “While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.”

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