Permanent Hair Dye and Straighteners May Increase Risk of Breast Cancer, Study Says

Before your next trip to the salon, here’s what you need to know.

By: Amanda Mushro
Permanent hair dye being applied with a watchful eye.


Permanent hair dye being applied with a watchful eye.

Photo by: powerofforever


Whether it is a day at the salon or the salon you’ve created in your own home, millions of people are dyeing their hair and using chemical straighteners. However, a new study may have many rethinking their hair treatment.

According to a study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, women who regularly use permanent hair dye and straighteners have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not.

The risk of cancer appeared much higher in black women and this may be related to the frequency of their hair treatments, researchers noted. The use of permanent dye was associated with a 45 percent greater risk of breast cancer for black women, compared to a 7 percent higher risk for white women. Likewise, chemical straighteners were also associated with an 18 percent higher breast cancer risk for black women.

"Researchers have been studying the possible link between hair dye and cancer for a long time, but results have been inconsistent," study author and Head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group, Alexandra White, Ph.D., said in a release about the research. "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."

However, when asked if women should stop dyeing or straightening their hair, co-author of the study, Dale Sandler, Ph.D., said the results needed to be replicated in other studies before that could be decided, and that women should look at all of the factors in their lives.

"We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk,” Sandler said. “While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer."

So, before you schedule your next hair appointment or consider cancelling, here’s what experts are suggesting:

  • Use semi-permeant or temporary hair dyes as opposed to permanent

  • Consider the frequency and reduce the use of hair dye and straighteners

  • Take other factors, such as family history, physical activity and your overall health, into consideration

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