Study finds hair dye, straighteners may increase breast cancer risk

Health News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Researchers are raising the alarm about products many women use every day.

A new study found hair dyes and chemical straighteners could increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. Black women, the study found, could be at even more of a risk.

It’s something cancer survivors, like WSAV’s own producer Kim Blake, take into serious consideration.

“I had been putting in a relaxer. I would go every six to eight weeks to get it straightened,” said Blake, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.

Now, she only uses heat to straighten her hair; a decision reinforced by the just-released Sister Study.

Published in the International Journal of Cancer, it looked at more than 46,000 women who were cancer-free themselves but had a sister with the disease.

According to the study, women who used chemical straighteners had an 18 percent increase in their risk for breast cancer — 31 percent if they used it every five to eight weeks.

“This is not a benign process. This is really massaging their scalp and their hair to put the chemicals in there,” explained Dr. H.A. Zaren, Medical Director of the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion.

In the study, the use of permanent hair dye showed a startling difference and increased risk by race.

For white women, there was a seven percent jump. But black women’s breast cancer risk spiked 45 percent.

Dr. Zaren says he’s already getting questions about the findings but urges his patients to keep moderation in mind.

“One study doesn’t make a change, dictate a change,” he said. “I’m not saying this is a bad study; this is a big study, but we really have to look at it and I think moderation is the answer here in almost everything we do.”

Researchers stopped short of saying women shouldn’t use straighteners and dyes. They say more studies are needed because there are so many other factors that may contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Blake says a few grays aren’t worth the risk.

“I earned every gray hair, so I don’t care,” she added.

To learn more about the Sister Study, visit here or join their Facebook group.

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