Permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners linked to cancer risk, new research warns

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hair-dye-linked-to-cancer-risk(NaturalHealth365)  Is it time to embrace your natural hair color once and for all?  After all, we know that the most popular types of hair dye are filled with harsh chemicals that can damage your hair – and perhaps even harm your health in other serious ways.

Recent research, as reported in Scientific Reports, unveils alarming connections between hair dye use and significant alterations in human metabolism, potentially raising concerns about cancer risk.  More alarmingly, another study published in the International Journal of Cancer reveals a stunning link between breast cancer risk, hair dye, and chemical straighteners in American women.

Research links hair dye use, metabolism, and cancer risk

According to the newly published study in Scientific Reports, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified certain chemicals in hair dyes as potentially carcinogenic for those exposed to them occupationally.  However, the biological mechanisms linking hair dye use to cancer risk are not well understood.

In the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study, researchers conducted the first serum metabolomic analysis comparing hair dye users and nonusers.  They found significant differences in 11 compounds, including amino acids and xenobiotics, with glutathione metabolism being heavily represented.  Their findings suggest potential biological pathways linking hair dye use to human metabolism and cancer risk.

NIH study with nearly 48,000 women reveals an increased risk of breast cancer from permanent hair dye

The December 2019 study comes out of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The researchers prospectively assessed the health data of a cohort of 46,709 American women and uncovered several alarming links between permanent hair dye use and breast cancer risk.

“We observed a higher breast cancer risk associated with any straightener use and personal use of permanent dye, especially among black women,” the authors state.  “These results suggest that chemicals in hair products may play a role in breast carcinogenesis.”

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Chief among their findings was the fact that women who used permanent hair dye were 9 percent more likely to get breast cancer compared to women who didn’t.  The potentially damaging effects were even greater among African American women – regular use of permanent dye (every five to eight weeks) in this group was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of breast cancer.  Caucasian women using hair dye at this frequency had an increased risk, too, but lower at 8 percent.

Chemical hair straighteners – which tend to be used more frequently by African American women – were also problematic.  Regular use of these products was associated with a 30 percent greater likelihood of breast cancer diagnosis.

Why the link?  “Many hair products contain endocrine‐disrupting compounds and carcinogens potentially relevant to breast cancer,” the authors point out bluntly.

Indeed, the National Cancer Institute reports that as many as 5,000 chemicals are used in conventional hair dye and chemical straightening/relaxing products.  You read that right: 5,000 chemicals – and many of them are considered either carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, or damaging to human health for a number of other reasons.

These chemicals can include:

  • Resorcinol – scientifically linked to problems with the thyroid, red blood cells, and central nervous system
  • 1-naphthol – hazardous to organs like the skin and lungs and potentially cancer-causing
  • Known irritants and chemical additives, including formaldehyde, artificial fragrance, ammonia, and lead acetate

What may be the only promising news out of this study is that the authors found minimal or no increase in breast cancer risk among women who used temporary or semi-permanent hair dye – although this certainly doesn’t guarantee such products are safe.

Women (and men) looking to explore a different hair color – explore these effective natural options for safer self-expression

Going au naturale with your hair color isn’t such a bad idea, given everything we’re learning about conventional hair dye products.  But, if you really are interested in changing up your look, consider searching for natural hair dye products that include ingredients like henna, cassia, and indigo.

Natural hair coloring products from reputable brands like “Henna for Hair” or “Hairprint” may even improve the sheen and health of your hair while nourishing your scalp, too.

And no matter what your plans are for your hair color, be sure to practice hair- and scalp-healthy habits, such as avoiding extreme heat, consuming an organic, nutrient-rich diet, and applying natural products like aloe vera (apply a small amount to your scalp a couple of times per week), coconut oil (massage into your scalp and leave for a few hours before washing), and essential oils of rosemary or geranium (make a hair mask by mixing a few drops into a carrier oil).

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