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Study finds connection between breast cancer and hair products

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Researchers from Rutgers School of Public Health, Rutgers New Jersey Cancer Institute and Roswell Park Cancer Institute went into 4,285 women's homes in New York and New Jersey to conduct interviews, take blood samples and measurements.

They found that women using certain hair products, specifically hair dyes and hair relaxers, were at a higher risk for breast cancer.

"And we found that the associations differed by race," stated Dr. Adana Llanos, the study's lead author.

One major finding was that among African-American women, darker hair dye such as brown or black, was associated with a 51 percent increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers also found that African-American women who use dark hair dyes faced a 72 percent increased risk for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, a specific type of breast cancer.

While caucasian women who use chemical relaxers or straighteners were found to have a 74 percent increased risk for breast cancer.

However, Dr. Llanos cautioned that the study does not directly prove that these hair products cause cancer.

"I probably wouldn’t go as far to say you should never dye your hair again," she said. "But I would just say be mindful and look at the ingredients maybe do a little more research."

Rutgers researchers are going to next work to determine which specific chemicals or brand name products may predispose women to a higher risk of breast cancer.