NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new study from scientists at the National Institutes of Health suggests hair dye and chemical straighteners could increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
The news came out of a large national survey called The Sister Study, reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
Nearly 48,000 women who had a sister with breast cancer were asked about their use of permanent hair dye or hair straighteners. The responses pointed to a disturbing correlation.
The products may just be one of the most common beauty regimens for women. In fact, a recent survey from Clairol found that 75% of women color their hair.
A little more than half say they do it at home, about a quarter say they just have their hair colored professionally. The rest do a combination.
Either way, if they’re using permanent hair dye or a chemical straightener, they may be putting their health at risk.
The Sister Study found that those women were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who did not color their hair – something that made women we spoke with think twice about dying their hair.
“Now that I know about it, yeah, I’d consider not doing it anymore,” said Tessa Carro of Manhattan.
More concerning, African American women who used permanent dyes were 60% more likely to have breast cancer. That may be due to a higher inherent risk in African American women.
“We know that African American women are already at higher risk so the dyes may just be exacerbating the inherent risk,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik.
Bernik, the chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai West, says the study doesn’t prove cause and effect, just that there’s a correlation.
The breast cancer finding isn’t unexpected because they’ve known for some time that hair dye contains potentially risky chemicals.
“It’s not a surprise, there are a lot of chemicals in hair dye that are endo disruptors that can lead to breast cancer,” said Bernik.
“How long have we been misinformed?” said Eleanor Smith of Brooklyn. “Yeah, it’s concerning, especially in the African American community.”
Other findings showed that risk went up the more often women colored their hair and that coloring their hair at home was also riskier than having it done in a salon.
That difference may be due to being messier with the dye at home, getting more chemicals on their hands and also while they’re cleaning up.
Semi-permanent or temporary dyes appeared to be safer, but anyone with a relative with breast cancer should talk to their doctor about having their hair dyed.
For more about The Sister Study, see sisterstudy.niehs.nih.gov.