Morning Rounds: Study links hair dye, straightener to breast cancer

Posted at 10:33 AM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 13:11:42-05

NORFOLK, Va. - A recent study by the National Institutes of Health linked permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners to an increased risk of breast cancer.

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

"Hair dye and chemical straighteners contain a high level of aromatic amines and phenols. Research shows that these chemicals cause cancers in lab animals," explained News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light.  "Research has confirmed that repeated exposure to hair dyes can increase the risk of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer."

Dr. Light said anytime the body is exposed to chemicals, a cellular change can occur.

"These changes increase with repeated exposure and the strength of the chemical concentration," he explained on News 3 This Morning.  "Cellular changes can increase the risk of developing cancer. Semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes have been correlated to highest risk of breast cancer."

Dr. Light said data suggests black women are at the highest risk.

"Research associates permanent hair dye with a 45 percent increased risk of development of breast cancer in African American women," said Dr. Light. "Caucasian women only have a seven percent increased risk of breast cancer with repeated use. The risk is also higher for women who dyed their hair every five to eight weeks. Chemical straighteners are associated with an 18 percent higher risk of breast cancer and do not vary by race."

Dr. Light said there are other risk factors that pose an even greater risk than hair dye and chemical straighteners.

"Breast cancer’s biggest preventable risk factors are tobacco use, obesity, alcohol use, and lack of exercise," he said.  "Women can control all these factors through lifestyle modifications."

Learn more about thesigns and symptoms of breast cancer from the Centers for Disease Control.