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Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. Researchers are proactively searching for the causes of the deadly disease and a new study has found one of the culprits. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, the risk of breast cancer is associated with more frequent use of chemical hair products. Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that women who use hair relaxers at least every five to eight weeks were about 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Women who use hair dye alone are nine percent more likely than women who don’t use hair dye to develop breast cancer, the study says.

For black women who use permanent hair dye, the cancer risk increased drastically.

“Among African American women, using permanent dyes every five to eight weeks or more was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of breast cancer as compared with an eight percent increased risk for white women.”

The Sister Study, which is a research effort dedicated to finding the causes of breast cancer, participants included 46,709 women and found that black women using these chemicals were at a much higher risk than other participants.

“Researchers have been studying the possible link between hair dye and cancer for a long time, but results have been inconsistent,” author Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group, said about the results. “In our study, we see a higher breast cancer risk associated with hair dye use, and the effect is stronger in African American women, particularly those who are frequent users.”

Hair chemicals aren’t the only cause of cancer and co-author Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch, said much more research is needed to identify the other risk factors.

“We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk. While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.”

The Sister Study is currently tracking the health of women between ages 35 to 74  whose sister had breast cancer that joined their study from  2003 to 2009 from the U.S and Puerto Rico.


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