• Destiny Carter

New study links hair dyes and straighteners to breast cancer

According to a new study in the International Journal of Cancer, it is possible that the use of chemical hair straighteners and hair dye could be associated with a higher breast cancer risk.

The study is quickly making headlines, but according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, this doesn’t mean that women should stop using dyes and straightening products.

“It’s not as simple as the headline, as usual, but this is something that potentially affects a lot of people,” Ashton said early Wednesday on “Good Morning America.” “You must interpret this headline with a massive amount of caution.”

The study focused on approximately 46,000 women from the ages of 35 to 74. Overall, the study concluded that the regular use of chemical hair dyes or straighteners is associated with a 9 percent increased breast cancer risk. The results were also broken down by race and for white women, there is a 7 percent increased risk.

For black women, the risk is as high as 45 percent, which the study suggests is possibly due to the chemicals in hair products that black women use to maintain their hair types. For heavy use of dyes, the risk increased to 8 percent for white women and 60 percent for black women.

According to Ashton, since each woman involved in the study had a sister that had breast cancer, the results of the study will be hard to extend across the general population. Also, the study did not show cause and effect, only association, which does not provide a “direct link” between breast cancer and hair dyes.

“We don’t know the absolute risk here. We don’t know the absolute number of cases that could be tied to these findings,” said Ashton. She believes that men and women should focus more on the things that they can control that could possibly lessen their risk of breast cancer. “We know the things that can lower the risk of breast cancer, things like exercise, keeping your weight in a healthy range, minimizing alcohol consumption if you are in a high-risk group and, if possible, breastfeed,” she said, “We have to control the controllables.”