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Posted under: News Environmentalism

New Study Finds Black Women Who Use Hair Dyes, Straightening Irons May Be More Likely To Develop Breast Cancer

For white women, no notable correlation was found.

A new study is detailing yet another potential health risk for Black women to be wary of. But researches also warn that results aren't fully conclusive. 

A study by the Union for International Cancer Control shows Black women who frequently used permanent hair dye were found to have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to those who didn't use the hair product.

The study found that due to the different hair textures of women of color, hair products meant for the same purpose may contain stronger and more harmful chemicals than those made for finer hair textures. In instances where Black women used permanent hair dye just as regularly as white women to color their hair, they were still 60% more likely to develop breast cancer. For white women, no notable correlation was found. 

The study states, "products used predominately by black women may contain more hormonally‐active compounds."

In addition, a supporting Sister Study conducted from 2003 to 2009 found that women of all races who used straightening products such as flat irons or pressing combs were 30% more likely to develop breast cancer. This is due in part to the parabens and other harmful chemical produced when the heating tool meets the hair shaft.

Parabens are chemical compounds that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic and hair products to prolong the shelf life. In this study it is also noted that African-American women are more than twice as likely to straighten their hair.

Although the FDA does not regulate the use of preservatives in hair products or cosmetics, they do work to ensure product use instructions are clear and labeled for proper use. The FDA says they have and will continue to take legal action against brands who fail to abide by those standards.

Despite the implications of this new study, researchers tell the New York Times that the results bear no direct causation of breast cancer.

"You cannot, based on these data, make the statement that hair dyes and straighteners cause breast cancer," stated Dr. Larry Norton, who serves as medical director at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC.

So what's the best way to decrease your risk of Breast Cancer and other illnesses linked to permanent hair color and hot tools like pressing combs and flat irons? Limited use is the best answer according to Silent Spring Institute scientist Robin Dodson. 

In Chris Rock's 2009 award-winning documentary Good Hair, the comedian chronicled the Black hair experience, unveiling the common perceptions, misconceptions and historical styling practices of Black hair. Many credit the film for today's heightened appreciation for Black hair in its natural state.

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