Hair color or permanent straightening may cause breast cancer for black women

Henrietta Brewer
December 6, 2019

The risk is more than six times higher for black women.

Black women who used permanent dye had a 45 percent higher risk of breast cancer, compared to non-users, and those who used these products every eight weeks or more often had a 60 percent higher risk.

"In our study, we see a higher breast cancer risk associated with hair dye use, and the effect is stronger in African American women, particularly those who are frequent users", White said. White and fellow researchers found that women who use chemical hair straighteners, minimum every five to eight weeks were approximately 30 percent more prone to develop breast cancer.

Based on data from 46,709 women, researchers with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH, found that those who use permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer.


The researchers cautioned that although there is some prior evidence to support the association with chemical straighteners, these results need to be replicated in other studies.

"It's also important to note that the authors weren't able to look at the exact ingredients in the hair dyes and chemical straighteners".

Definitively identifying causes of breast cancer might be limited by current science, said Dr. Otis Brawley, professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "These results suggest that chemicals in hair products may play a role in breast carcinogenesis". Women answered questions about their use of hair dyes and straighteners.

Even the researchers admit that the study, while noteworthy, must be taken in greater context.


Breast cancer awareness month is a yearly campaign that intends to educate people about the importance of early screening, test and more. She pointed out that the Sisters Study's population isn't representative of women as a whole.

For both races, there was no increased risk for women who used semi-permanent or temporary dyes, the kind that eventually wash out with shampooing.

Although the FDA does not regulate the use of preservatives in hair products or cosmetics, they do work to ensure product use instructions are clear and labeled for proper use.

For the research, the study team examined data of an ongoing study called the Sister Study, which involved almost 46,800 women between the age group of 35 and 74.


The study was published Wednesday in the International Journal of Cancer (IJC).

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