Dr. Campbell: Hair dyes may be linked to increased breast cancer risk

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Breast cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide, and the most common in women.

In the United States, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after skin cancer. Now, new research finds evidence of a link between use of certain hair products, such as dyes and relaxers, and raised risk of breast cancer in women.

The study — led by researchers from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey — is published in the journal Carcinogenesis.


1. Tell us about this new study and how hair dyes may be related to breast cancer

In the study, data on 4,285 women taking part in the Women’s Circle of Health Study, was analyzed. Of the 4,285 total number of women studied, 2,280 had breast cancer (1,508 black and 772 white women), and 2,005 did not (1,290 black and 715 white women).

The women’s ages ranged from 20 to 75 years. When they analyzed the data, the researchers found some significant links between raised risk for breast cancer and use of hair dyes and chemical relaxers, or straighteners, and that the patterns of risk differed between white women and black women.

For example, for black women, they found that use of dark shades of hair dye was linked to an overall higher risk of breast cancer. For white women, the analysis found that use of relaxers, or straighteners, either alone or together with hair dyes, was linked to a raised risk of breast cancer.

2. What can women do to prevent breast cancer?

Every year in the U.S., around 220,000 women and 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer, and approximately 40,000 women and 400 men die of the disease.
The risk factors developing breast cancer includes some things that cannot be changed such as age, genetics, and age of first menstrual period. Risk factors that can be changed include physical inactivity, use of alcohol, and use of some forms of hormone replacement therapy and contraceptive pills.

The most important thing that women can do is to partner with their healthcare provider to assess your risk. It is also important for women to perform breast self-exams and have recommended screening visits with mammography when indicated.

3. With respect to hair products, what is your best advice to our listeners?

It is important not to overreact to this study. The study was quite small and was not able to prove an exact cause and effect relationship. However, it does prompt researchers to examine how exposure to hair products and other carcinogens may contribute to the development of cancer. For now, it is important to talk with your doctor about your own breast cancer risk.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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