Hair Dye Linked To Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Jun 22, 2017 | Last Updated: Feb 12, 2019

Hair Dye Linked To Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Estimates show that about 1 in 8 US women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in her life. It is expected that in 2017, about 252,710 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed along with 63,410 cases of non-invasive cancer. Additionally, 40,610 American women will die this year due to breast cancer. Wide prevalence of breast cancer is best depicted with the fact that death rates associated with this severe disease are higher than for any other cancer in women, besides lung cancer. Numerous factors increase your risk of this serious condition including the hair dye you use, according to the latest study.

Hair Dye and Breast Cancer

Safety of hair dyes and other products we use all the time has been debated for years but evidence remains inconclusive. While some scientists claim they are harmful to our overall health and wellbeing, others disagree claiming the amounts of chemicals are too low to cause negative health outcomes. In order to investigate the link between hair products (hair dyes, chemical relaxers) and breast cancer, Adana Llanos and a team of researchers at the Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey carried out a study.

To get their answers, scientists used data on 4285 women taking part in the Women’s Circle of Health Study, whose goal is to understand breast cancer among black women. Of a total number of women studied, 2280 had breast cancer (772 white and 1508 black women) and 2005 didn’t (715 white and 1290 black ladies).

Researchers analyzed links between higher breast cancer risk and use of hair products with particular focus on hair dyes, relaxers, and use of creams containing placenta or cholesterol for deep conditioning.

Findings, published in the journal Carcinogenesis, show that use of dark brown or black hair dyes by black women was associated with 51% higher odds of developing breast cancer and the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer (the most common type) is 72% higher. At the same time, white women who used hair relaxers had 74% greater risk of getting breast cancer too.

Protect From Breast Cancer

Why Are Hair Dyes Linked To Breast Cancer?

First things first, it is important to bear in mind that the study doesn’t suggest hair dye causes breast cancer. Instead, it showed that use of hair dyes and hair relaxers increases one’s odds of developing this severe disease. Llanos explains it is not clear why chemicals in hair products enhance cancer risk. That said, research suggested it could have something to do with DNA damage on the absorption of harmful chemicals by our body.

Moreover, it is not clear why these risks are different for ladies of different races or why darker hair colors are more dangerous than lighter ones. The theory is that the chemical composition of hair products marketed and used by white women are different than items that are marketed and used by black ladies. These findings call for more research on this topic in order to identify compounds and chemicals in hair dyes and relaxers that increase breast cancer risk.

Tips To Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Following are the tips to reduce breast cancer risks:

  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Do self-checks regularly
  • Learn more about your family cancer history


The latest study discovered that dark brown and black hair dyes increase breast cancer risk among African-American women while hair relaxers are linked to higher cancer odds among white women. It is not clear why these chemicals play a role in breast cancer risk, but scientists theorize it has a lot to do with the way our body absorbs them.

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