A study has sparked concerns about how permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners affects the safety of African American women.
The study was recently published in the International Journal of Cancer. Past research has found a connection in the chemicals of hair dye and straighteners with cancer. However, when tested within human studies show inconsistencies in the connection. The new evidence has created a more substantial pool of evidence of the effect of the hair adjusting chemicals.
Medical records and lifestyle habits were examined from over 46,000 women between the ages of 35 and 74 in an analysis of women’s health called The Sister Study by researchers, which included information about hair maintenance. While the evidence showed the cancer risk involved with hair dye affected mostly white women, the new study showed a 9% impact on African American women.
The conclusion reached was women who used permanent hair dye or chemical straighteners had an enhanced risk of breast cancer.
“The association was notably higher among Black women,” says epidemiologist Alexandra White. White serves as the author for the study and an investigator with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.
White notes the risk associated with White women was 7% higher when using hair dye, but it was 45% higher for Black women. That number would be inflated dependent on how frequently hair dye was applied.
Currently, there is no direct answer to which ingredient in hair dye causes the issues as the focus of the study was on the correlation of dye use and cancer. There is also the note of the women in the Sister Study already at high risk for breast cancer due to having a sister who was impacted by breast cancer.
In the United States, breast cancer rates are increasing for non-Hispanic Black women, who are also more likely to die.
Hair products have over 5,000 chemicals, some contain mutagenic and endocrine-disrupting properties, which raise cancer risk.
In hair straighteners, the risk didn’t vary by race. Everyone was 30% more likely to develop breast cancer. Black women, however, are more likely to use them. 75% in the study detailed using hair straightening products.
Dr. Doris Browne, a medical oncologist and former president of the National Medical Association, is promoting conversations around breast cancer with healthcare providers and to be sure to include their hair practices as a part of their “social history” along with alcohol consumption, smoking, environmental inhabitation and more.