Fears over the safety of hair dyes, especially for women who regularly dye their hair brown or black.

A study of more than 4000 women found those who regularly dye their hair brown or black have a higher chance of getting breast cancer, while those who chemically straighten their locks increase the risk by 74%.

News.com.au reported that a study published in the journal Carcinogenesis, of more than 4,000 women found a significant increase in breast cancer risk among black women who used dark shades of hair dye and white women who used chemical relaxers.

White women who used chemical relaxers had a 74 per cent increased risk of breast cancer, compared to those who did not, and black women who reported using dark hair dye had a 51 per cent increased risk.

For white women who did both — used dark hair dye regularly and chemically straightened their hair, the breast cancer risk was even greater.

But the lead author of the study said while there was a possible link between dark hair dye, chemical straighteners and cancer, it didn’t prove a connection.

“A lot of people have asked me if I’m telling women not to dye their hair or not to use relaxers,” she told Reuters. “I’m not saying that. What I think is really important is we need to be more aware of the types of exposures in the products we use.”

A scientific panel previously said there is not enough evidence to prove that such dyes, linked in recent studies to bladder cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, are safe, reports Daily Mail.

Dr Ian White, chairman of the Scientific Committee on Cosmetic and Non-Food Products and consultant dermatologist at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, said: ‘They have not provided ample information that the dye is safe. Isn’t it amazing that a product should have such wide gaps in its toxicological requirements but be on sale?’

In its report, the committee called on the European Commission to act to protect consumers.

‘The European cosmetic industry uses a number of permanent hair dyes and the safety of these has not yet been assessed by authorities,’ it said.

‘The committee is of the opinion that the information submitted is insufficient to allow for an adequate risk assessment. Accordingly, it is not possible to assess the safe use of the substance.

‘Any robust epidemiological investigation in Europe would take years, but there is a need for measures to protect the consumer in the interim.’

Scientists are particularly worried about the long-term effects of PPD, or para-Phenylenediamine, used in dark hair dyes.

The report added: ‘There are indications derived from experiments in rats that PPD may be carcinogenic upon long-term application with hydrogen peroxide.’ The Cancer Research Society advised concerned consumers to stop using the products until further research has been completed.

Research in Sweden suggested that chemicals found in colouring products might damage the immune system, triggering rheumatoid arthritis.

And an investigation of 1,500 people with bladder cancer in California found women who used permanent hair dyes once a month were twice as likely to get the disease.

Some hairdressers were 50 per cent more likely to have bladder cancer. In the UK each year there are more than 12,000 new cases and 4,900 deaths from the cancer.

Certain chemicals have already been shown to cause the disease, including those used in the painting and dyeing industries.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association said: ‘The industry considers consumer safety to be paramount and will continue to co-operate with the European Commission.

‘Hair colourants are among the most thoroughly studied products on the market and studies to date have concluded that they are safe when used as directed.’

Cancer Council have previously said, “These studies should give reassurance that the link between using modern hair dyes and cancer is, at most, very minimal. Further research is needed to investigate whether certain subgroups may be at increased risk, such as those with a genetic predisposition.

People who colour their hair are unlikely to have an increased risk of cancer, even if they have been colouring their hair regularly for many years. If you are still concerned, ensure that you colour your hair in a well ventilated room or salon, so as to minimise exposure to the fumes from hair dyes. Otherwise, embrace your natural colour.”

Are you concerned at all?

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  • yeah this is quite scary to read! i am nervous about this research now! they do need to do more research though


  • Oh dear, this is a concern.


  • I have very rarely dyed my hair. This makes me feel like not doing it again. Good thing I love my natural hair colour.


  • Scary! Glad I can’t really be bothered colouring very often!


  • I have gone grey gracefully and I guess I am better for it healthwise.


  • It’s a bit of a no brainer isn’t it? If you’re coating your hair with chemicals, odds are they aren’t great for you.


  • Lucky I can’t afford to dye my hair very often but that is very concerning and worth a good think about how many chemicals we use.


  • Scary… I wonder if red colour is in the same category.


  • This sure should concern us !


  • I have known about this for years. Never dyed my hair, never will. If I do decide to I will use something natural like henna. When are people going to wake up and realize most personal products do not have enough testing. Use natural products only and that includes your cleaning products. An accumulation of chemicals is what is causing cancers and children are getting them too. Read a book called ‘ The case against fragrance’ by Kate Grenville who talks about the testing done on perfumes and other products, pretty much none.


  • How many salons are well ventilated are those in supermarkets. Some of them don’t do colouring. Both domestic bathrooms only have small window openings.


  • I prefer my natural hair without chemicals


  • Yet another thing to add to the worry treadmill. I do have areas of very prominent greys and I do colour my hair. May be when I am in my 80’s (if I live that long) I will embrace grey hair but till then no way I’m not at all a grey lover.


  • I wasn’t concerned but I am now. As someone whose hair turned grey at a very young age, I’ve been having my hair coloured for quite a while. Is this conclusive or inconclusive? There is a huge industry and people’s health and lives at stake. Now I’m just plain confused.


  • I don’t and will never dye my hair. Just like my natural hair colour and do not like chemicals.

    • The funny thing is I get so many lovely comments about my hair and the grey streaks/highlights. Where do I get it done? Mother Nature – LOL! :)

      • It’s lovely indeed. I think there is a special glamour in keeping our colour while we grow up! :-)

      • I 100% agree and my hair is so very thick and soft too due to the lack of chemicals. I love the changing colour and people worry that grey will make them look older – but it really does not. I love your glamour comment and I am going with that – lovely! :)


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