The risks of developing breast cancer – treatment for which often causes hair loss – appear to be linked to frequent use of hair dye.
The new findings by London surgeon Kefah Mokbel correlate with a previous study by the Finnish Cancer Registry which also observed a possible connection.
While neither set of results are sufficiently strong enough to confirm a true cause and effect relationship, they do suggest that sensible precautions when it comes to dying your hair may be a good idea.
Rise of 14 per cent
According to The Sunday Times, Professor Mokbel – who is based at the Princess Grace Hospital in London – found in his study that women who colour their hair have a 14% rise in rates of breast-cancer.
The professor says that he finds the fact that the industry recommends women should dye their hair every four to six weeks somewhat concerning. Instead, he advises that women reduce their exposure to synthetic hair dyes to two to six times per year.
Writing of his findings on Twitter, he further states that it would be preferable to choose hair dyes that contained the minimum concentration of aromatic amines such as paraphenylenediamine, more commonly known as PPD.
Importantly, however, he does come up short of stating that hair dye itself is to blame for causing cancer. “Further research is required to clarify the relationship between hair dyes and breast cancer risk in order to better inform women,” he states.
PPD in hair dyes has been the subject of controversy for several years now, and one of the most memorable incidents involved Wembley-based Marina Williamson who said that she was “hours away from death” after suffering a severe reaction to PPD in a L’Oreal home hair dye that she was using.
A lawyer from the States, meanwhile, began a petition against the chemical’s use in the beauty industry way back in 2011 when he claimed to represent several clients who had experienced adverse side-effects from PPD in home hair dye kits.
In April 2017 American formulations of certain men’s hair dyes containing lead acetate were linked to hairloss as well as a number of health issues. These ranged from gastrointestinal or liver toxicity to cancer. Lead acetate is banned from being used in beauty products within the European Union due to health concerns, but is currently permitted in the USA. It is important for people to be aware of the different country-specific regulations so that they know to check for such ingredients, especially when shopping on the internet when products may be shipped from abroad.
Common in darker dyes
PPD is especially common in darker hair dyes, so it pays to be vigilant as it can provoke the body’s immune system and cause a sore, itchy scalp, neck, shoulders, eyelids and ears. Hair loss may be an issue, too, as irritated follicles can shed hair prematurely and thus cause thinning hair. Another possibility is a condition named Telogen Effluvium, which results in all-over thinning. There is treatment for Telogen Effluvium, though in many cases people’s hair regrows naturally around six months after the shedding is triggered.
Powerful chemical dyes can, in extreme cases, burn the scalp, leading to something called Chemical Trauma. If these are surface burns then specialist hair loss treatment may be possible, though for more acute burns where the follicles are destroyed, the hair loss will generally be permanent.
In less severe cases, these dyes can lead to weakened, damaged hair, as can any chemicals used on the hair including hair relaxers and peroxide bleach, causing it to become brittle and liable to snap anywhere along the shaft.
While hair breakage is not a hair loss condition per se, it can certainly give hair a thin, dull and frizzy appearance. This can often be managed with a good haircut, conditioning treatments and, some people also like to help maximise their hair’s potential through taking a food supplement such as Belgravia’s premium hair growth supplement Hair Vitalics.
When possible, natural herbal dyes are generally preferable to chemicals and indeed Professor Mokbel tweets that it is reasonable to assume that hair dyes that consist of natural ingredients such as rose hip and rhubarb would be safe. A patch test is always recommended before applying any type of colour to the hair, whether it is a home hair dye kit being used or a professional salon colouring session.
While no one wants to damage or lose their hair as a result of dyeing it, the suggestion that there might be some sort of correlation between excessive use of strong dyes and cancer is obviously far more troubling. One of the most distressing aspects of cancer treatment is frequently named as the almost inevitable hair loss that ensues. While this can sometimes be minimised by wearing a scalp-cooling device called a cold cap during chemotherapy to inhibit the drugs from reaching the hair follicles, success is not guaranteed.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.