We all like to look good, and we’ll often do questionable things to achieve that aim. In our quest to look younger, slimmer, and more attractive, we’ll follow odd, faddish diets that may cause long term damage to our health, or spend time on tanning beds that can cause skin cancer.
It seems we can now add hair colouring and straightening to that list. A new study of 4,285 African-American who use dark hair dyes, found a whopping 51% increase in breast cancer incidence. White women who use chemical hair straighteners had even worse news: they had a 74% increased risk of breast cancer. The cancer risk was even higher when white women used both dark hair dye and chemical straighteners, doubling their risk of breast cancer compared with white women who used neither.
It’s estimated that one-third of women over the age of 18 use some type of hair dye, so the information in this study affects a lot of people. But will it cause us to change our habits? According to the National Institute of Health, use of indoor tanning beds has remained prevalent despite strong evidence associating them with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Considering the number of women who struggle to conceal their grey hair each month, I suspect that most will relinquish their hair dye very reluctantly, no matter the negative health outcome.
On its website, the National Cancer Institute notes that few studies have ever been published on the association between hair dye and any form of cancer. Clearly, this subject merits further study. In the meantime, you may want to reconsider colouring your grey.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.