Health question that won't go away: hair dyes and cancer

7:10 PM, May 3, 2011   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - Hair dyes are some of the most popular beauty products on the market today. But are they safe?

In this week's "8 Ways to Prevent Cancer" segment, we answer the long-debated question: do hair dyes cause cancer?

"Hair dyes and cancer is one of those questions that really won't go away," says Dr. Graham Colditz, a cancer researcher at Siteman Cancer Center.

Those dyes can be smelly, sticky, and may leave your scalp feeling itchy and irritated. To keep hair looking natural, hair color has to be applied every few weeks.

So what's the cancer risk related to these chemicals we rely on to look younger?

"The evidence is really, really strong in my books that there's no major effect," says Dr. Colditz.

Only dark hair dyes were once linked to an increased risk of lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. But that was found years ago in hair dye formulations no longer in use.

"Our sense at the moment is that's a really small risk and generates from hair dye used in the 1960s and 1970s and the modern dyes really no risk," says Dr. Colditz.

Allergic reactions are known to develop in some people after use. So in spite of how harsh they can be, it appears there's no reason to worry about getting cancer while getting your hair colored.

"There've been major studies looking at breast cancer and other cancers and absolutely no relation," says Dr. Colditz.

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