Lots of people dye their hair, but does hair dye cause cancer? The answer is not completely clear at this time because the research varies. In recent years, scientists have gained a much better understanding of what causes cells to mutate and turn malignant. Cigarettes and sun exposure are two known causes of cancer, but new research is revealing interesting facts on who might or might not be susceptible. One of the things under investigation is the potential link between hair dyes and cancer.
Women and men regularly dye their hair to cover gray or as a change of pace. Common forms of hair dye include:
- Temporary dyes: These dyes last for only one to two hair washings. The dye does not actually penetrate the hair shaft and is considered milder.
- Semi-permanent dyes: A semi-permanent dye does enter the hair shaft, but will last for only about five to 10 washings before disappearing.
- Permanent hair dyes: Permanent dyes are chemicals that reach deep into the hair shaft They are popular because they are permanent and do not wash out. In fact, your hair must grow out to get rid of the dye.
Permanent hair dyes are the focus of most cancer studies. They are sometimes called coal-tar dyes, and contain amines, phenols, hydrogen peroxide, and other chemicals. The darker the hue of the dye, the more chemicals it contains.
10. Natural Hair and Cancer
In one study carried out to discover if hair dye is safe or not, researchers found that individuals appear to be more at risk of certain forms of cancer depending on their natural hair color. The Medical University of Vienna study looked at 117,200 U.S. women to determine if dyeing your hair might cause cancer. Interestingly, they found “hardly an increased risk”.
9. Hair Color and Cancer Risk
Researchers found that women who have naturally dark hair appear to have an increased risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a cancer of the body’s lymphatic system. Interestingly, women with light hair have a greater risk of basal cell carcinoma, which is a type of skin cancer.
8. Hair Dye and Cancer
Over one-third of all females who are 18 years or older and around 10 percent of males extensively use hair dye. Most hair dyes are made of many chemicals. In fact, they may contain over 5,000 different chemicals, and many of these have been shown to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals.
With so many people using hair dye, many experts have worried that frequent exposure to the dye’s chemicals might increase the risk of developing cancer.
7. Limitations of the Study
The study that was carried out was only performed on Caucasians in America, which means the results might be different from other demographics. Further studies are clearly needed that include a more diverse group of individuals.
6. Breast Cancer and Hair Dye
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently carried out a study and found that women who use chemical straighteners and hair dye have a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
5. African American Women at Greater Risk of Cancer from Dyes
46,709 women participated in the study, which found that women who used hair dyes were 9 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those who do not use dyes and straighteners. African-American women who use dye every five to eight weeks had a 60 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer, compared to Caucasian women who only had an 8 percent increase.
4. Researchers on the Risk of Dyes and Cancer
“Researchers have been studying the possible link between hair dye and cancer for a long time, but results have been inconsistent,” stated Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group. “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.”
3. Bladder Cancer and Hair Dye
The American Cancer Society reported that barbers and hairstylists who are regularly exposed to hair dye appear to have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. However, that link has not been established in people that regularly dye their hair and is only in individuals who use the chemicals in their work.
2. Hair Dye Regulations
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hair dyes, which they classify under cosmetics. However, even with stringent regulations, there are limits to what the FDA can and cannot do.
The FDA only looks at hair dyes as a whole and does not approve each chemical that goes into the products. However, if one is found to be harmful, then the FDA can regulate the products and perhaps remove them.
1. Using Hair Dyes Safely
To use hair dyes safely, be sure to follow all the directions on the product’s label. Keep the dye out of the eyes and away from the mouth when using. Never use hair dye on your eyebrows or eyelashes.
Always patch test a section of hair to determine if there is any irritation or if you are allergic. Limit your exposure to hair dye by wearing gloves when using it. Also, only leave the dye on for the specified amount of time and then thoroughly rinse.
Do not mix different types of hair dye together, or it could cause a chemical reaction.