Hair Treatment Chemicals Linked with Increased Risk for Breast Cancer: New study

A new study has uncovered a possible link between hair treatments (dyes, straighteners/ relaxers) and increased risk for breast cancer in both black and white women.


“The findings stem from a study of more than 4,000 women. Use of dark brown or black hair dyes by black women was tied to a 51 percent greater risk of breast cancer. And whites who used hair relaxers had 74 percent higher odds.”  -UPI


These findings support the conclusions of a report we posted a few years ago that examined use of hair care treatments and cancer incidents in black women.  The findings also highlight previous findings from studies examining the individual chemicals frequently present in these hair treatment products like formaldehyde and parabens and their link with adverse health consequences.  But the primary benefit of this study is that it has shed light on what many people have suspected for some time now: that the harsh chemicals found in many commercial hair treatment products need to be more thoroughly examined and in the meantime, consumers should begin to do their homework, ask questions, and weigh the potential risks before using products that may hold the potential for harm.


CFL Graphic-black haircare toxic

Also see: Could African-American beauty products pose health risks?


Could hair dyes, relaxers raise breast cancer risk?


New research suggests that black women who use dark hair dyes face a higher risk of breast cancer, while chemical relaxers and straighteners boost the odds in white women.

The findings stem from a study of more than 4,000 women. Use of dark brown or black hair dyes by black women was tied to a 51 percent greater risk of breast cancer. And whites who used hair relaxers had 74 percent higher odds…

For the new study, researchers asked 4,285 white and black women in New York City and New Jersey about their past use of hair care products. Their ages ranged from 20 to 75. Nearly 2,280 were breast cancer survivors.

The idea was to compare hair product use among women who developed breast cancer and women who didn’t get the disease.

The products included dyes, chemical relaxers and deep conditioning creams containing cholesterol or placenta. Cholesterol is marketed as a moisture restorer, and placenta is sold as a hair repairer.

While the study found that black women who used dark dyes had a 51 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer overall, the risk for developing estrogen receptor positive breast cancer — the most common type — was 72 percent higher…

It’s not clear why the risks might differ by race or why darker dyes might be especially dangerous…

Scientists have studied the potential risks of hair dye for decades, focusing on bladder cancer, leukemia and breast cancer. There haven’t been any definitive findings yet…



Study Abstract

Exposures to carcinogens in hair products have been explored as breast cancer risk factors, yielding equivocal findings. We examined hair product use (hair dyes, chemical relaxers and cholesterol or placenta-containing conditioners) among African American (AA) and White women, and explored associations with breast cancer. Multivariable-adjusted models were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to describe the associations of interest among 2280 cases (1508 AA and 772 White) and 2005 controls (1290 AA and 715 White). Among controls, hair dye use was more common among Whites than AAs (58 versus 30%), while relaxer (88 versus 5%) and deep conditioner use (59 versus 6%) was more common among AAs. Among AAs, use of dark hair dye shades was associated with increased breast cancer risk (OR = 1.51, 95% CI: 1.20–1.90) and use of dark shades (OR = 1.72, 95% CI: 1.30–2.26) and higher frequency of use (OR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.01–1.84) were associated with ER+ disease. Among Whites, relaxer use (OR = 1.74, 95% CI: 1.11–2.74) and dual use of relaxers and hair dyes (OR = 2.40, 95% CI: 1.35–4.27) was associated with breast cancer; use of dark hair dyes was associated with increased ER+ disease (OR = 1.54, 95% CI: 1.01–2.33), and relaxer use was associated with increased ER– disease (OR = 2.56, 95% CI: 1.06–6.16). These novel findings provide support a relationship between the use of some hair products and breast cancer. Further examinations of hair products as important exposures contributing to breast cancer carcinogenesis are necessary.


Journal reference: Llanos, A., et al. 2017. Hair product use and breast cancer risk among African American and White women.  Carcinogenesis: Integrative Cancer Research Journal. Carcinogenesis bgx060.


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