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Does Permanent Hair Dye Cause Cancer?

Types of Hair Dyes Linked to Cancer

Hair dye is a common cosmetic product that has been used for many years to change the color and style of one’s hair. It can be applied to both natural and chemically treated hair, although it is most often used on chemically treated hair. The chemicals in permanent hair dye are usually classified as either direct or indirect acting agents.

Direct Acting Agents in Hair Dye

Direct-acting agents penetrate into the hair shaft and cause damage by breaking down the keratin protein structure. Indirect-acting agents work through oxidation reactions that result in the formation of free radicals which then attack the hair fiber.

Coal Tar Products, Generally Replaced with Synthetic Dyes

The first type of hair dye was made from coal tar products, but these were replaced with synthetic compounds because they caused skin irritation. In addition, some of the synthetic dyes contained ingredients such as formaldehyde and nitrobenzene which could potentially cause cancer.

Permanent Hair Dyes: Avoid Carcinogenic Chemicals

The second type of hair dye is called “permanent” because it does not wash out after application. This type of hair dye contains chemical substances that permanently alter the color of the hair. These include ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and other oxidizing agents. Some of these chemicals, as well as paraphenylenediamine (PPD), toluenediamine (PTD), Diaminobenzene and 2-methoxy-methyl-p-phenylenediamine (ME-PPD), have been linked to health problems including cancer.

Do Hair Dyes Cause Cancer?

Researchers have been studying a possible link between hair dye use and cancer for many years. Studies have looked most closely at the risks of blood cancers (leukemias and lymphomas), bladder cancer, and breast cancer. Different studies have shown different results, varying with the type of hair dye, the demographic group and the type of study conducted.

What Do Studies Related to Hair Dyes and Cancer Show?

Researchers use 2 main types of experiments to try to figure out what substances cause cancer. These studies include animal tests and laboratory cell cultures. Scientists call the substances tested “carcinogens.” They’re looking for whether the substances cause cancer or help cancer grow.

But scientists say it’s important to keep in mind that different kinds of studies come up with different findings. Some studies look at specific groups of people, like smokers versus nonsmokers. Others look at specific diseases, such as breast cancer. Still others look at cancers caused by exposure to a particular type of chemical.

Based on current studies it does appear there is a strong link between the prolonged use of permanent hair dye and cancer. In contrast, temporary hair dyes (which are chemically different) have not been shown to have this same connection to cancer.

Which types of cancer have been linked with hair dye or relaxers?

Some studies have found a possible link between hair dye use and increased risk for certain types of blood cancers (leukemia and lymphoma), bladder cancer, and breast cancer. It is a complex topic, as different hair dyes use different chemicals. Additionally, some studies are lab-based whereas others are human-based studies.

Breast Cancer and Permanent Hair Dye

More recent studies have found increased risks of breast cancer in women who use permanent hair dyes. A study by the NIH (the “Sister Study”) studied more than 46,000 women and determined there was an overall increased risk of breast cancer of 9% by using permanent hair dye every five to eight weeks. Surprisingly, the risk was 8% among white women, and 60% higher for black women.

The study also found a 51% increased risk for black women using darker shades and a 46% increased risk using lighter shades.

Frequent use of relaxers also increased the risk of breast cancer by 31%.

Bladder Cancer and Hair Dye

Some studies have found an increased risk of bladder cancer in hair stylists who use hair dyes, as well as hair dye users themselves. The greatest impact appears to be with stylists and barbers, as they have greater exposure to the chemicals.

Leukemia and Hair Dye

Other studies suggest that women who use hair dyes for many years may have a higher risk of developing leukemia. This appears more prevalent in those who began use prior to 1980 and who used darker colors.

Lymphoma and Hair Dye

Studies have similar results with Lymphoma, with stronger connections to hair dye being most prevalent in those using hair dyes prior to 1980 and using darker colors. However, this does not rule out more recent dyes and chemicals. Each study focuses on specific conditions, demographics and specific factors, and does not rule out factors not tested.

What Types of Hair Dye Have Been Associated with Increased Cancer Risks?

Different hair dyes contain different chemicals. However, permanent hair dyes are most closely linked with increase cancer risks.

Hair dyes containing paraphenylenediamine (PPD), toluenediamine (PTD), Diaminobenzene and 2-methoxy-methyl-p-phenylenediamine (ME-PPD) have been linked to higher cancer risks in some studies. There are other names for these chemicals, and other chemicals could also pose a risk.

To minimize your risk of cancer from hair dye, temporary hair dye and natural permanent hair dye should be considered.

What Can You Do to Lower Your Risk of Cancer When Using Hair Dyes?

People choosing to use hair dye should consider using products that are labeled as “natural” or “herbal.” Avoid those with the chemicals listed above.

Note that these chemicals can appear in hair dye, hair relaxers, hair relaxers and temporary tattoos.

In general, it is believed you can reduce your risks in several ways:

  • Choose hair dyes with fewer potentially harmful chemicals
  • Limit frequency and duration of hair dye use
  • Use hair dyes in well ventilated areas to limit exposure to fumes
  • Consider using temporary or semi-permanent hair colors instead of permanent hair dye, as they do not typically contain the same potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Use products with natural ingredients instead
  • Wear gloves when applying hair dye
  • Choose hair dyes with less harsh chemicals, such as those labeled “safe” or “non-toxic”

Contact Us to Evaluate Your Claim re: Permanent Hair Dye and Cancer

If you believe your cancer may have been caused by the long-term use of permanent hair dyes, contact our attorneys today at (800) 403-6191. We understand your concerns and are here to help you.

We will provide a non-obligation, no-cost consultation, evaluate your claim and determine your whether we can help you recover for your injuries. Call us now at (800) 403-6191.

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