June 14, 2005
HAIR SPRAYS AND CANCER - NO EVIDENCE OF A LINK
Dr. Erik N. Steele, D.O.
In the last several years there has been a fair amount of speculation in the press and a few scientific circles that the use of hair dyes carried with them a risk of certain cancer for users. A recent analysis of all scientific literature on this issue suggests there is really no such risk. The only possible association is a weak one between hair spray use and some cancers of the blood which study authors suggested may not be real and needs further research.
Hair dye use is widespread; one third of American women and 10% of American men over 40 use hair dyes, with the majority of those dyes being the permanent type. As our American population ages, use of hair dyes will likely increase, as more and more of us strive to keep the gray at bay.
Safey of these products, then, is a concern for millions of Americans. So the news, primarily from groups in Europe and Graet Britain, that there might be a risk of hair dye use probably caused a lot more gray hairs among users. That prompted three researches based primarily in Canada to review all of the scientific literature on this subject and do what researchers call a 'meta-analysis.' They reviewed every published study on the issue in the last 25 years - 79 in all - from around the world, and analyzed the data in those studies.
At the end of all of that they concluded "Our results indicate that, globally, there is no effect of personal hair dye use on the risk of breast and bladder cancer. There is a borderline effect for the hematopoietic cancers. However, the evidence of a causal effect is too weak to represent a major public health concern."
So what would the wise consumer do? One step would be to relax about use of hair dyes in the general population. Second, if you have a strong family history of blood cancers (such as leukemia), or you have had a blood cancer yourself, you might consider limiting hair dye use and discussing this issue with a cancer specialist.
Finally, if you are aging and have enough hair to dye, count your blessing. Some of us will not have the hair to consider this option.