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Study Links Hair Dyes to Potential Breast Cancer Risk for Black Women

A new study links permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners to a potential increased risk of breast cancer for black women.

The National Institutes of Health conducted a study, and looked at the hair maintenance of women between the ages of 35-74, over a 12-month period with women who had a sister diagnosed with breast cancer. The study found black women had a 45% higher risk of breast cancer compared to just 7% of white women.

According to the study, black women use permanent hair dye more often, about every five to eight weeks or more, which places them at a 60% higher risk of breast cancer than white women, who are at an 8% higher risk. Results from the research on chemical straighteners found black and white women to be at equal risk with 30% more likely to develop breast cancer if they used straightening treatments every five to eight weeks or more. 

With more than 5,000 different chemicals in hair dyes, the study’s authors noted that while many hair products contain carcinogens, they could not point to which chemicals were responsible for causing breast cancer. 

In general, black women are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer and according to the study’s authors, the fact that products used on black women have more hormonal compounds doesn’t help. But there hasn’t been any solid or consistent evidence of a link between chemicals in hair products to the development of breast cancer.

The Realist Woman’s take:

This information is scary. As a black woman who gets her roots dyed every other month, I am concerned but also appreciative of this information. It motivates me to get regular checkups, as prevention is key to winning the battle against life threatening diseases.

There are obvious differences in black hair and in black hair care and I hope that with the trend of more natural ingredients in just about everything these days, that expands to women's hair care products. For black women especially, hair maintenance isn't just for us. Our lives and livelihoods depends on our hair looking "tidy." We are judged at school and at our jobs for our hair and due to our hair textures being the way it is, we tend to get our hair done more often versus that of white women. So with 5,000 chemicals in these hair products, it's no wonder why there is increased risk for us to develop this life threatening disease. Again, the key is to get regular checkups but even that can be nearly impossible with millions lacking proper healthcare insurance and women's clinics closing left and right. We deserve to be healthy and a healthcare system that prioritizes black women.