Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Study: Dark Hair Dye, Straighteners, Other Hair Products Tied to Breast Cancer

A recent study published in the journal Carcinogenesis reviewed the possible impact of some hair products on increased risks for breast cancer in African American and Caucasian women. The researchers reviewed hair dyes, hair relaxers, and cholesterol-based hair products. Breast cancer rates, although decreasing, are a key cause of death in women.

The new research included 4285 women diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as control patients (who were not diagnosed with breast cancer) who ranged in age from 20 to 75 and who were included in the Women’s Circle of Health Study.

The authors collected sociodemographic information that could influence cancer risk such as family and personal health history, prenatal exposures, reproductive history, and hormone use. They researchers also gathered lifestyle exposure data that included use of hair products, tobacco exposure, alcohol intake, physical activity, and vitamin use. Breast cancer characteristics were noted, as well, according to Specialty Pharmacy Times. The study authors also specifically looked at breast cancer risk with the use of hair dyes, chemical relaxers, and deep conditioning creams that included cholesterol or placenta in their ingredients, according to the study.

The researchers discovered that dark brown or black hair dyes were associated with a 51 percent increased risk of breast cancer among African American patients when compared to African American women who did not use these products. Use of darker hair dye was also associated with a 72 percent increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer in this population, the study revealed. The study also revealed a 74 percent increased risk of breast cancer among Caucasian women who used chemical relaxers or straighteners. There were some differences in cancer risk by estrogen receptor status, according to the researchers, Specialty Pharmacy Times reported.

Reuters Health pointed out that, “The risk of breast cancer was even higher for white women who regularly dyed their hair dark shades and also used chemical relaxers, and it more than doubled for white dual users compared to white women who used neither dark dye nor chemical straighteners.”

The study included adult women from New York and New Jersey. They were surveyed from 2002 through 2008. The women in both groups were of similar age and race. They were asked if they had ever used permanent hair dye at least twice yearly for at least a year and were also asked if they had ever chemically relaxed or straightened their hair for at least one year, according to Reuters Health. Most—88 percent—of the African American women used chemicals to relax their hair; five percent of Caucasian women reported using relaxers. For dark hair dye, the figures switched but not as dramatically. A total of 58 percent of Caucasian women reported that they regularly dyed their hair dark shades, only 30 percent of African American women did.

Reuters Heath noted that African American and Caucasian who also regularly chemically straightened their hair, were at greater breast cancer risk, according to the research; however, epidemiologist Tamarra James-Todd said, following review of the Carcinogenesis report that, “I would be concerned about darker hair dye and hair straighteners…. We should really think about using things in moderation and really try to think about being more natural.” She added in a telephone interview, “Just because something is on the market does not necessarily mean it’s safe for us.” James-Todd, who is a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, was not involved with the new research.

The most arresting results revealed an increased risk in the minority of African American women who used dark hair dye and Caucasian women who used chemical relaxers. African American women who used chemical straighteners and Caucasian women who used dark hair dyes were also at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. James-Todd said that, because so many of the African American women used chemical relaxers and so many of the Caucasian women used dark hair dye, links would have been hard to detect. In other words, there is no reason to believe chemical relaxers and hair dyes would increase the risk for women of one race and not of another, according to Kames-Todd; however, she believes the tie has to do with cultural norms and not genetics and may also involve products, Reuters Health reported.

The association between relaxers and breast cancer in Caucasian women was surprising to the lead author, Adana Llanos, an epidemiologist at the Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, New Jersey. According to Reuters Health, Llanos, who is an African American woman, was concerned about the safety of hair relaxers in Black women and stopped using them years ago. “A lot of people have asked me if I’m telling women not to dye their hair or not to use relaxers,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’m not saying that. What I think is really important is we need to be more aware of the types of exposures in the products we use.”

These findings suggest that there may be an association between certain hair products and breast cancer risk, according to the study authors, who also noted that additional studies are needed to further determine risks between hair products and breast cancer development, as well as how to minimize risks, they concluded.

Prior Research

National law firm Parker Waichman LLP has decades of successful experience representing clients in personal injury litigation. Attorneys at the firm are available to answer questions for any individuals seeking legal information for potential hair dye and straighteners and other hair products lawsuits.

The recent study noted that this is the first research of its kind to find a significant increase in breast cancer risk among African American women who used dark shades of hair dye and Caucasian women who used chemical relaxers. The research also included the largest population of African American women examined for breast cancer risk and dark hair dye, the research team pointed out, according to Reuters Heath.

Other research has revealed that African American women have a higher incidence of breast cancer compared with patients of other racial or ethnic backgrounds; however, the reasons for the increased risks remain unknown, according to Specialty Pharmacy Times. Other, prior, findings from pre-clinical research suggest exposure to certain compounds found in hair products may have something to do with developing cancer.

Previous studies revealed that long-term users of dark dyes have a four-fold increased risk of fatal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and fatal multiple myeloma, according to the researchers. Prior research also has found a tie between dark hair dye use and an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Also, a 2016 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that breast cancer rates are generally similar for African American and Caucasian women, with approximately 122 new cases for every 100,000 women annually. African American women who suffer from breast cancer are likelier to die from the disease than Caucasian woman, Reuters Health pointed out.

Legal Help for Victims of Hair Dye Cancer

Parker Waichman has years of experience representing clients in numerous defective product lawsuits. If you or someone you know is suffering adverse health reactions believed to be associated with hair dyes, straighteners, and other hair products, you may have valuable legal rights. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).