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Is there a link between hair dyes and cancer?
27 Jan' 21

Is there a link between hair dyes and cancer?

 

Hair dyeing is quite prevalent among women and men over the age of 40, with estimates indicating that 50% or more of women and 10% of men over 40 color their hair. Many people have canceled their usual hair salon appointments as a result of the current pandemic's social distance recommendations. As natural hair colors fade, let's get to the bottom of a complicated question: do permanent hair dyes raise the risk of cancer? 

Decades of investigation, contradictory findings:

 

Hair dyes are classified as either oxidative (permanent), direct (semi-permanent or temporary), or natural. The majority of hair dyes used in the United States and Europe, both at home and in salons, are permanent colors. They go through chemical reactions to produce the pigment that settles on hair shafts and maybe the most cancer-causing. 

Hair colors expose people to chemicals through direct skin contact or inhalation of fumes during the coloring procedure. Hairstylists' occupational exposure to hair dye has been recognized as most likely cancer-causing. However, whether or whether personal usage of permanent hair coloring raises the risk of cancer or cancer-related death is unknown. 

Many research has looked into the link between personal hair dye use and the risk of cancer or death from cancer. Imperfect studies due to small study populations, short follow-up times, inadequate classification of exposures (personal or occupational) or hair dye type (permanent versus non-permanent), have resulted in an incomplete accounting of cancer-specific risk factors beyond permanent hair dye use (permanent versus non-permanent).

 

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According to a recent study, permanent hair dye does not appear to raise overall cancer risk:

 

Researchers looked at the link between personal hair color use and the risk of cancer and cancer-related death in a recent study published in The BMJ. The researchers looked at survey data from 117,200 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study over the course of 36 years, starting in 1976. Age, race, BMI, smoking status, alcohol intake, natural hair color, permanent hair dye use (ever user versus never user, age at first use, duration of use, frequency of use), and risk variables for specific types of cancer were all tallied

Participants who had ever used permanent hair dyes had no increased risk of cancer or cancer-related complications than non-users.

When it came to specific cancers, ever-users had a slightly higher risk of basal cell carcinoma (the most prevalent type of skin cancer) than non-users. Longer-term use of permanent dye seems to raise the risk of some breast and ovarian malignancies. Women with naturally dark hair were shown to have a higher chance of Hodgkin lymphoma, while women with naturally light hair had a higher risk of basal cell carcinoma.

The authors were cautious in publishing their findings, stating that more research is needed to fully comprehend the relationships found. Furthermore, we must remember that correlation does not imply causation.

 

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The study, while well-designed, had some flaws:

 

This was a large, well-designed study with a good response rate among participants. The researchers reviewed extensive data to determine how much of the risk of cancer was due to personal permanent hair dye use rather than other potential risk factors.

There were a few flaws in this study as well. First, the participants were predominantly female nurses of European ancestry, therefore the findings may not be applicable to men or other racial or ethnic groups. Next, the study was unable to account for each and every cancer risk factor (for example, exposure to pesticides and other environmental chemicals).

Subjects may have reported using permanent hair dyes when they were actually using semi-permanent or natural colors because data were not collected on other hair grooming items outside hair dyes. The authors hypothesized that hair dye color coincided with natural hair hues because they didn't have data on the actual color of hair dyes used. This assumption could lead to underestimation of genuine chemical exposures, as in the instance of dark-haired users who received additional chemical exposures due to the removal of their natural darker color.

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