According to a new study released by the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, chemical straighteners and hair dyes that black women regularly use may be increasing their risk of breast cancer. The potential exists for all women, but it’s particularly alarming for black women who tend to use the products more.
Multiple studies over the years have shown an increase in chronic healthcare concerns among salon workers that includes asthma. Now breast cancer has been added to the list of potential health risks for stylists and their clients.
Black women who used dyes regularly and had a sister diagnosed with breast cancer, exhibited a 30 percent increased risk of developing the disease at some point in their lifetime compared to Caucasian women. African-American women that used permanent hair dye every 5-8 weeks were 60 percent more likely to develop the disease. The study found no such correlation with temporary or semi-permanent dyes.
Straighteners didn’t demonstrate any significant variations among different races or ethnic groups, but the products do contain formaldehyde that’s long been known to be a carcinogen. That’s especially troubling for black women who may regularly relax or straighten their hair. The study didn’t indicate which products were used or any specific ingredients.
The data could be especially important for women with a family history of breast cancer, but no firm conclusions have been established as to why permanent hair dyes affect black women more. It could be due to higher usage, specific ingredients, or the amount of dye absorbed by the hair. It’s also important to note that a direct link between cancer and dyes or straighteners has not been definitely established.
Some chemicals that are regularly used in hair care products called parabens imitate estrogen and many breast cancer tumors contain an extensive number of estrogen receptors. A myriad of factors contribute to the development of breast cancer and one way women can help reduce the risk of healthcare problems is by requesting their stylists use products that are free of parabens.