It is estimated that 50% of women and 10% of men over the age of 40 color their hair. While the pandemic may have reduced the frequency of folks visiting their hair salon to dye their hair, people started using at-home coloring products to keep the grey at bay.
But many people wonder if the chemicals in permanent and semi-permanent hair color products can cause cancer. According to Harvard Health, occupational exposure to hair dye may increase the risk of cancer for hair stylists who regularly inhale the fumes or touch the products. But little is known if personal use of hair dyes can cause illness.
A study published in the British Medical Journal examined the link. Researchers found that people who used permanent hair dye regularly had no increased risk of solid cancers and a slight elevation in the risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common kind of skin cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Dr. Shinjita Das, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, said that the study, for the most part, was well designed but because the study was done mostly on female nurses of European descent and did not examine men or other racial or ethnic groups, it had its limitations. The study also did not break down how many women with darker hair used additional chemicals to strip the pigment to achieve a much lighter shade of hair color.
“Additional research is needed to study diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, specific hair dye colors, cancer subtypes, and exposure levels,” she said, according to Harvard Health. Overall, the expert said with the knowledge we currently have, coloring our hair is safe and does increase the risk for most cancers or cancer-related death.
Dr. Herman Kattlove, a noted Los Angeles-based oncologist, tells Newsmax that the study is complicated and warrants further research.
“Clearly, in general, the dyes do not increase the risk of most cancers,” he says. “The summary says there may be a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer, but it is too complicated an analysis to parse out whether the risk is real or connected to something else. My wife is getting her hair dyed as we speak, and I certainly wouldn’t stop her.”
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