Hair dye, straight­en­ers may in­crease breast can­cer risk

Orlando Sentinel - - EXTRA HEALTH & FITNESS - By Marie Mc­Cul­lough

A large study led by gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists is re­new­ing con­cern about whether chem­i­cals used to dye and straighten hair raise the risk of can­cer.

Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health researcher­s found an in­creased chance of breast can­cer among women who reg­u­larly used per­ma­nent hair dye, par­tic­u­larly African Amer­i­cans. Black women who used dye at least ev­ery two months had a 60% higher breast can­cer risk, while white women had an 8% higher risk. Straight­ener use was linked to an 18% in­crease in risk.

Decades of stud­ies of hair dye and var­i­ous can­cers have pro­duced con­flict­ing and in­con­clu­sive re­sults.

The au­thors of the lat­est study, pub­lished re­cently in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Can­cer, said their re­sults need to be con­firmed and put in con­text.

“We know that a lot of dif­fer­ent fac­tors in­flu­ence a woman’s risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer, and these risks we see here, they are mean­ing­ful but they are small,” se­nior au­thor Alexan­dra White, and NIH epi­demi­ol­o­gist, told the “To­day” show. “Women should take that into con­text with ev­ery­thing else in their life, in­clud­ing their phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and diet. These are all fac­tors we have to con­sider when we’re think­ing about our long-term health risks.”

Co-au­thor Dale San­dler, also an NIH epi­demi­ol­o­gist, echoed that sen­ti­ment in a press re­lease — but also sug­gested that women might want to err on the side of cau­tion.

“While it is too early to make a firm rec­om­men­da­tion,” San­dler said, “avoid­ing these chem­i­cals might be one more thing women can do to re­duce their risk of breast can­cer.”

The Na­tional Can­cer Institute, part of the NIH, ex­plains on its web­site that early hair dyes con­tained chem­i­cals that were found to cause can­cer in an­i­mals. But in the 1970s, man­u­fac­tur­ers elim­i­nated some of these chem­i­cals to make prod­ucts safer.

“It is not known whether some of the chem­i­cals still used in hair dyes can cause can­cer,” the can­cer institute says. “Given the wide­spread use of hair dye prod­ucts, even a small in­crease in risk may have a con­sid­er­able pub­lic health im­pact.”

The new find­ings are based on data from 46,709 women in the Sis­ter Study, a huge NIH study that fol­lowed women who had a sis­ter with breast can­cer.

More than half of the women re­ported us­ing per­ma­nent hair dye, and 75% of black women said they used chem­i­cal straight­en­ers.

Af­ter the women were fol­lowed for an av­er­age of eight years, 2,794 breast can­cers were di­ag­nosed. That trans­lated to an over­all 9% higher risk of breast can­cer in women who used per­ma­nent dyes com­pared with those who did not.

Although the women’s fam­ily his­tory put them at higher risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer to be­gin with, the researcher­s be­lieve the hair dye link still can be ex­tended to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

What might ex­plain the more el­e­vated risk in black women?

The researcher­s point to pre­vi­ous stud­ies of po­ten­tially toxic chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing the hor­mone es­tro­gen, which can ac­cel­er­ate the growth of can­cer­ous breast cells.

TOPALOV/IS­TOCK­PHOTO

Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health researcher­s found an in­creased chance of breast can­cer among women who reg­u­larly used per­ma­nent hair dye, par­tic­u­larly African Amer­i­cans.

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