New study results may indicate that there is a connection between certain hair products and a risk of breast cancer.
Cells are the basic building material that makes up body tissue. Cancer begins in these cells and the tissue is found in the breasts, as well as other parts of the body. If something goes wrong in the process of the growth of these cells, then new cells might begin to form in areas when the body doesn't need them and while the old and damaged cells do not die to make room for the new ones. When new cells form and damaged cells do not die, the cells can build up into masses of tissue called tumors (or lumps or growths).
The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. estimates that a woman is diagnosed as having breast cancer about every 2 minutes, and woman dies from breast cancer about every 13 minutes. On average, out of every eight women in the U.S., one woman will be diagnosed as having breast cancer, making breast cancer the leading type of cancer in women and the second largest cause of cancer-related death among women worldwide.
A group of researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, have found evidence of a link between an increased risk of breast cancer and the use of particular hair products, such as relaxers (or straighteners) and hair dyes. The findings were different for white women and black women. The group of researchers published their research findings in the Carcinogenesis journal.
While it is true that the cases of confirmed breast cancer diagnoses in the United States have been decreasing, it is still the second largest cause of death from cancer for all women worldwide, with black women having a higher risk of dying from it than white women have (Paddock, 2017).
The researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ wanted to study whether or not the use of certain hair products, such as dyes and relaxers, can increase the chance for a woman to develop breast cancer. The primary explanation behind this theory was that these particular hair products contain carcinogens, which are chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
The evidence so far had been somewhat conflicting on whether or not these certain hair products can, indeed, increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Some of the evidence at the time had come from the testing of animals, while a few of the research studies had been conducted on humans. The research that was conducted on humans, however, primarily was centered around the link between the use of hair dyes and provided mixed and conflicting results.
In a concerted effort to clear up the confusion that had arisen from the mixed results of the previous research programs, the researchers from Rutgers University reviewed and interpreted the data that had been compiled from the more than 4,200 women that took part in the Women's Circle of Health Study, a research program that focused on understanding why the risk of breast cancer is higher in black women than it is in white women.
Of the more than 4,200 women who took part in the Women's Circle of Healthy Study, more than 2,285 of the women had breast cancer (with 772 of the women being white women and 1,508 of the women being black women). On the other hand, 2,005 of the women did not (with 715 of the women being white women and 1,290 of the women being black women). The women were aged anywhere between 20 and 75 years old.
The data that the researchers used in the study included all of the pertinent information regarding important information on any factors that might affect the women's risk of developing breast cancer, as well is information on social and economic background. Some of the factors that may have increased the women's risk of breast cancer included hair product use, taking vitamins, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, their general physical activity, the use of certain hormones, their reproductive history, personal health, family health, and any exposure to known risk factors while their mother was still pregnant with them.
The team of researchers then proceeded to look into any links between the women’s increased risk of developing breast cancer and the women's use of certain hair products, such as deep conditioning hair creams that contained cholesterol, particular shades and types of hair dyes, and some hair relaxers (or chemical hair straighteners).
When the research team had completed the phase of analyzing the data, they looked closely at their records. When the researchers looked at the women in the group without breast cancer, they had found out that the records revealed that the white women in the study were 28 percent more likely to use hair dye than the black women and 53 percent more likely to use a deep conditioning hair treatment.
When analyzing the data of the women in the group with breast cancer, the research team did find some pretty strong evidence of the link between the increased risk of developing breast cancer and the use of hair dyes and relaxers, although the results were quite different between the black women and the white women in the study.
One of the results that the team of researchers uncovered was that when black women used a hair dye in a dark shade, that had an overall increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as an increased risk of developing estrogen positive breast cancer.
While investigating the results of the group of white women in the study, the researchers discovered that when the white women used relaxers (or chemical hair straighteners), both alone and along with any color of hair dye, they had an overall increased risk of developing breast cancer. When the white women of the study had used darker colored hair dyes, their risk of developing estrogen positive breast cancer increased, and their risk of developing estrogen negative breast cancer had increased when they had used relaxers (or chemical hair straighteners).
The authors of the research study stated that the results of their research program implied a confirmed link between an increased risk of developing breast cancer and the use of certain hair products, such as some hair dyes and relaxers (or chemical hair straighteners). The researchers stated, "Further examinations of hair products as important exposures contributing to breast cancer carcinogenesis are necessary."
This research is important as it points to possible causes of breast cancer. One of the most important reasons behind all breast cancer research is to understand what might cause it to develop. By understanding which factors may lead to a woman or man’s chance of developing breast cancer, the medical community, cancer research community, and individuals can begin to make decisions that can decrease their risk of developing breast cancer, and possible decrease the risk of their offspring developing breast cancer as well. Having a greater understanding of what causes breast cancer to develop may lead to a greater awareness of what might be able to be done to cure breast cancer after it has developed. With further research, the numbers of confirmed breast cancer cases and deaths can be decreased until the day it is completely eradicated.
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (n.d.). About Breast Cancer. [Web]. Retrieved on 07/14/17 from: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts
Paddock, C. (2017). Hair dyes, relaxers tied to raised breast cancer risk. In Medical News Today. [Web]. Retrieved on 07/14/2017 from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317959.php?bl