Talking on your cellphone, using the microwave, eating red meat... the list of everyday actions that could land you with cancer seems never-ending. Well, if all that talk (scientific and otherwise) freaks you out, maybe don't get a full-blown makeover to de-stress. That's because dyeing your hair might somehow increase your cancer risk — at least, if you trust the results of a new study that identified a link between hair dyes and breast cancer. Just like many other studies that have sought to identify the connection between cancer and hair dye use, this study, conducted by London surgeon Kefah Mokbel, uncovered a correlation, but not a definitive cause-and-effect relationship.
Mokbel — a breast surgeon at Princess Grace Hospital in central London — reviewed a collection of previous studies on the link between breast cancer and hair dye usage, according to The Australian. He observed that there was a 14 percent rise in the rate of breast cancer among women who dyed their hair in comparison to those who did not. But, he cautioned, the fact that the women who died their hair were more likely to get breast cancer did not necessarily mean that the dyes were the culprit. Instead, he wrote that "further work is required to confirm our result."
That is to say, be cautious and pay attention to the research, but don't panic. As Sanna Heikkinen from the Finnish Cancer Registry said in reaction to the newest study, according to The Independent, there could be another, related explanation:
It is not possible to confirm a true causal connection. It might be, for example, that women who use hair dyes also use other cosmetics more than women who reported never using hair dyes.
Still, it's important to take precautions, as Mokbel warned. Women (and anyone else using hair dyes) should "reduce exposure to synthetic hair dyes to 2-6 times per year and undergo regular breast screening from the age of 40," he tweeted. It's also a good idea to consider switching to hair dyes that use natural herbal ingredients such as rose hip and henna.
Although Mokbel's research raises alarm bells, the American Cancer Society reported that "most studies looking at hair dye use and breast cancer have not found an increased risk." And studies into the correlation between exposure to hair dyes and bladder cancer have not identified a link between the two. Instead, hairdressers, barbers, and others who use hair dyes in their work have been found to have an increased risk of this type of cancer that's "small but fairly consistent." Finally, some studies looking into risk of blood-related cancers such as certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia have identified an increase in cases based on hair dye use, while others have not.
As the American Cancer Society noted, the fact that hair dyes are filled with thousands of chemicals and that the various products can be quite different from one another can make studying how they affect users' health difficult.
Clearly, researchers have not been able to conclude with 100 percent certainty that hair dyes have a negative effect on the health of those who use them. So, while studies such as Mokbel's are valuable, they should not scare those who dye their hair into believing that they're in some kind of grave physical danger. Still, the American Cancer Society noted that darker hair dyes tend to contain more of the potentially harmful coloring agents that can cause problems, so it's a good idea for people who use those (and any other hue of dye) to do their own research. That will help them to pick the dye that's right for them, or maybe even prompt them to go natural.
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