Your Hair Color Could Put You at Higher Risk for Cancer, Study Says

Different hair colors have been associated with different types of cancer.

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Health experts are keen to detect cancer risks to help them better understand how to be proactive in fighting the illness. From cigarettes to sun exposure, scientists have identified countless things that are now believed to increase your risk of cancer. Sometimes, however, research doesn't turn out as planned. One recent study set out to identify a link between hair dye and cancer, but came up short. Researchers did, however, discover a different and equally noteworthy correlation between hair and cancer. The study found that having a naturally darker or lighter hair color could put you at higher risk for specific forms of cancer.

The Medical University of Vienna study, which included 117,200 U.S. women, was the largest study examining the effect of the chemicals in hair dye. The results, published in BMJ on Sept. 2, ended up showing "hardly an increased risk for most types of cancers—with exceptions."

But over the course of the study, researchers happened upon evidence that suggests women with naturally darker hair are at an increased risk of Hodgkin's lymphoma–cancer of the lymphatic system—while women with naturally lighter hair are at an increased risk of basal cell carcinoma—a type of skin cancer.

Woman getting her hair done
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More than one-third of women over the age of 18 and about 10 percent of men over 40 use hair dye, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). "Over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals," per the NCI. Since hair dye is so widely used, experts have long been concerned about the potential health hazards that could come with all these chemicals.

This newly published study does not completely prove that hair dye is safe, but it may bring some relief to women who regularly dye their hair. Of course, the research also suggests that natural hair color carries cancer risks of its own.

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It's important to note that the study has shortcomings, as it was only conducted on white American women, which means these findings may not pertain to other groups of people. The researchers emphasized the need for further studies on a more diverse population outside of the U.S. to gain a deeper understanding of women's hair colors as they pertain to cancer risk. And for more on the link between your hair and your overall health, find out 13 Things Your Hair Is Trying to Tell You About Your Health.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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