Hair Dye May Increase Lymphoma Risk
NEW HAVEN, CT -- February 13, 2004 -- Women who used hair dyes for long periods of time prior to 1980 have an increased chance of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, according to a recent study at Yale School of Medicine. Those using the darker permanent hair-coloring products had the highest disease risk.
One thousand three hundred and eighteen women took part in the study--601 with confirmed cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and 717 who were in good health. The women who used dark hair-coloring products before 1980 and for more than 25 years had a 2.1 greater risk of having non-Hodgkin's lymphoma than did those who never colored their hair. Women who began to dye their hair after 1980 were not at greater risk for developing the disease.
Hair dyes were reformulated around 1980. The cosmetics industry claims that the products may be safer after that date, explaining why women who began using hair dyes after 1980 did not appear to have a greater chance of contracting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Another possibility, however, is that women who have used hair dyes more recently have not yet used these products long enough to develop disease symptoms.
Previous Studies About Harmful Chemicals in Hair Dyes
Hair dyes have also been linked to bladder cancer. Researchers found that 4-aminobiphenyl (4-ABP), a recognized urinary bladder carcinogen, was a contaminant in eight out of eleven hair-coloring products (Chem Res Toxicol. 2003 Sep; 16(9): 1162-73). Some believe that removing 4-ABP from hair dyes will make them safe. However, Tongzhang Zheng, one of the authors of the hair dye/lymphoma study, believes that the chemicals currently within hair-coloring products are just part of the problem. "The major issue is not whether the products' current contents may or may not cause cancer," he said. "The issue is that permanent hair dyes all use an oxidizing process that will create new chemicals that are not in the original dye. The oxidizing process will create compounds that will cause cancer. The concern isn't over the compounds in the products, it is the oxidizing process of permanent hair dyes" (WebMD Medical News, January 26, 2004).
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Is a Common Cancer
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States. In 2004, over 50,000 people will contract the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, the rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases nearly doubled. They have remained steady since about 1999. Medical researchers have been trying to find a reason for the high incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Besides hair dyes, other suspected causes include pesticides, immune-suppressing therapies, and AIDS (FDA Consumer Magazine, 1996).
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