Hair dye, hair relaxers and breast cancer: What’s the risk?

Recent studies have linked hair dye and hair straightening chemicals to breast cancer, showing a 60% increase in risk for some women who use them. Here are the facts from our expert.

Woman with hair dyed red
Experts and consumers have expressed concerns about a link between hair products and breast cancer for years.

Some hair dye and hair straightening treatments like relaxers contain chemicals called endocrine disrupters that can interfere with your hormones.

This hormone disruption is a concern, especially when it comes to hormone driven cancers like breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.

We talked to Abenaa Brewster, M.D., M.H.S., professor in MD Anderson’s department of Clinical Cancer Prevention, for advice if you’re thinking about dying or straightening your hair.

What does research say about hair products and cancer?
For many years research has been inconclusive when it comes to hair products, with some studies confirming a cancer link and others not.

Now one large study has shown women who used permanent hair dye were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer.

For women who used hair straightening or relaxing chemicals regularly, breast cancer risk increased 31%.

“This is just one study, but it is a good study,” says Brewster. “It means that there is an association, but it may not be very strong. What we need now is more research to support this.”

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