Q&A: Is There A Link Between Black Hair Dye & Cancer?
Q: Is there something in black hair dye that causes cancer? – D. Hayward
A: According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that more than one-third of women over age 18 and about 10 percent of men over age 40 use some type of hair dye. They report:
Over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals. Because so many people use hair dyes, scientists have tried to determine whether exposure to the chemicals in hair coloring products is associated with an increased risk of cancer in people.
Early hair dye formulations contained chemicals, including aromatic amines that were found to cause cancer in animals. In the mid- to late 1970s, however, manufacturers changed the components in dye products to eliminate some of these chemicals.
There is not enough research to definitively say that hair dye of any color causes cancer. Scientists have been studying a possible cancer link for years and many studies yield conflicting results. The American Cancer Society offers this breakdown:
Bladder cancer: Most studies of people exposed to hair dyes at work, such as hairdressers and barbers, have found a small but fairly consistent increased risk of bladder cancer. However, studies looking at people who have their hair dyed have not found a consistent increase in bladder cancer risk.
Leukemias and lymphomas: Studies looking at a possible link between personal hair dye use and the risk of blood-related cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma have had mixed results. For example, some studies have found an increased risk of certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (but not others) in women who use hair dyes, especially if they began use before 1980 and/or use darker colors. The same types of results have been found in some studies of leukemia risk. However, other studies have not found an increased risk. If there is an effect of hair dye use on blood-related cancers, it is likely to be small.
Breast and other cancers: Most studies looking at hair dye use and breast cancer have not found an increased risk. For other types of cancer, too few studies have been done to be able to draw any firm conclusions.
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If you are interested in natural alternatives for coloring your hair, consider these food-based recipes.