Copyright 1994 Health ResponseAbility Systems, Collective Work &


In the past few years, several studies have indicated that

women and men who dye their hair frequently may be at increased

risk for certain cancers.

These studies showed an association between hair dye use and

increased risks for multiple myeloma (cancer of cells in the bone

marrow), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system), and

leukemia (cancer of blood-forming cells) in both sexes, and

ovarian cancer in women.

Three recent studies support findings from earlier studies

showing that increased risk might be restricted to long-term or

frequent hair dye users, particularly users of dark hair dyes.

Hair coloring products are widely used in the United States by

both men and women; estimates of current usage range from 20

percent to 60 percent of the population. These products may

contain chemicals that are mutagenic (altering the structure of

DNA) and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals.

The quantity and structure of these chemicals vary by product

type and color; darker dyes tend to have greater amounts than

lighter dyes.

Research has shown that some of the substances in hair dyes are

readily absorbed through the skin and scalp during application.

Several studies of cosmetologists and other persons who apply

hair dyes to others as part of their work have shown them to be

at increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma,

and leukemia.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the research

organization that classifies exposures as carcinogenic to

humans, has classified cosmetology as an occupation entailing

exposures that are possibly carcinogenic.

Because the evidence from the studies of personal use of hair

dyes is not conclusive, no recommendation to change hair dye use

can be made at this time.

However, because hair dye use is common in the United States, and

because people who apply hair dyes as part of their work have

been shown to be at increased risk of certain cancers, further

research is needed to clarify whether there is a causal


Recent Reports

A report published in the February 2, 1994 issue of the Journal

of the National Cancer Institute, showed that women who use

permanent hair dyes do not have an overall increased

risk of dying from cancer.

However, women who used black hair dye for more than 20 years had

a slightly increased risk of dying from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

and multiple myeloma.

Less than 1 percent of women in this study reported that they had

used permanent black hair dye for more than 20 years.

This study, carried out by Michael J. Thun, M.D., and colleagues

at the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration, included information from 573,369 women

enrolled in a cancer prevention study.

At the beginning of the study in 1982, the women answered a

questionnaire that included questions on use of permanent hair

dye. The women were contacted periodically over the next seven

years, and those who had died were identified and their causes of

death recorded.

The use of temporary, semi-permanent, or progressive hair dyes

was not studied, and any women who began to use hair dyes after

the initial questionnaire were not classified as hair dye users.

This study of women may not apply to men because men tend to use

hair dye products that differ chemically from women's hair dyes.

The ACS study also looked at cancer deaths and not at cancer

incidence (new diagnoses), which was the measurement used in

previous studies of personal use of hair dye.

Another report, published as an abstract in the Oct. 15, 1993

issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed men and

women who used permanent or semi-permanent hair dyes for 16 or

more years had an increased risk for leukemia.

Dale Sandler, Ph.D., and colleagues at the National Institute of

Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) compared hair dye use among

615 leukemia patients and 630 people without the disease. The

researchers found that those who had used any type of hair dye

had a 50 percent increased risk of leukemia compared with people

who never dyed their hair.

Most of the risk shown in this NIEHS study was associated with

permanent and semipermanent dyes, which increased risk by 60

percent and 40 percent respectively. Temporary rinses increased

risk by 20 percent. Long-term users, who used hair dye for 16 or

more years, were two and a half times more likely to have

leukemia than those who never used hair dye.

A study by Anastasia Tzonou, D.M.Sc., and colleagues at the

Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens

Medical School, published a report in the Sept. 30, 1993 issue of

the International Journal of Cancer, that suggested regular use

of hair dye might increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

The researchers asked 189 cancer patients and 200 hospital

visitors how often they dyed their hair each year. Compared to

women who had never dyed their hair, women who dyed their hair

one to four times a year had a 70 percent increased risk for

ovarian cancer.

Women who used hair dye five times or more per year had twice the

risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who never

used hair dye.

Previous National Cancer Institute Studies

Linda Morris Brown, M.P.H., and her colleagues at the National

Cancer Institute (NCI) and the University of Iowa published a

report in the December 1992 issue of the American Journal of

Public Health, that showed a 90 percent increased risk for

multiple myeloma in a study of 173 men with the disease and 650

men without it.

More than 8 percent of the men diagnosed with multiple myeloma

reported using hair dyes, compared to less than 5 percent of the

men without the disease.

In addition to the overall increased risk of multiple myeloma,

risk increased among men who had used hair dyes at least monthly

for a year compared with men who used dyes less frequently or for

a shorter time.

In an NCI study conducted by Shelia Hoar Zahm, Sc.D., published

in the July 1992 issue of American Journal of Public Health,

women who used hair dyes had a 50 percent higher risk for

developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and an 80 percent higher risk

of multiple myeloma than women who never dyed their hair.

Among the 876 women in the study, the risk associated with

permanent hair coloring products was higher than that for

semi-permanent or non-permanent hair coloring products.

Risk was increased 70 percent in women who used permanent hair

dyes and 40 percent in women who used semi-permanent or

non-permanent dyes. Risk did not increase with frequency of hair

dye use, although risk increased with the

number of years of use.

Women who used black, brown/brunette, and red hair coloring

products had a twofold to fourfold increased risk of being

diagnosed with these cancers compared with no increased risk of

cancer in women who dyed their hair with lighter colors.

Other cancer risk factors, such as family history of cancer,

cigarette smoking, and herbicide or pesticide exposure, did not

change the risks calculated for hair dye use.

An earlier NCI study published in the May 1988 issue of the

American Journal of Public Health, showed that men who had used

hair dyes had a two-fold risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and

almost double the risk of leukemia.

Kenneth P. Cantor, Ph.D., and his colleagues at NCI, the

University of Iowa, and the University of Minnesota found this

increased risk by interviewing men with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,

men with leukemia, and men without cancer.


In the United States, about 12,700 new cases of multiple

myeloma (6,500 men and 6,200 women) will be diagnosed in 1994,

and about 9,800 people (5,000 men and 4,800 women) will die of

the disease.

About 45,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma will be

diagnosed in 1994 (25,000 men and 20,000 women), and about 21,200

people will die of the disease (11,200 men and 10,000 women).

Leukemia's of all kinds will account for about 28,600 new cases

of cancer (16,200 men and 12,400 women) and about 19,100 cancer

deaths (10,500 men and 8,600 women) in 1994.

About 24,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in

1994, and about 13,600 women will die from the disease.

References for Studies Mentioned Above:

1. "Hair Dye Use and Risk of Fatal Cancers in U.S.

Women." The authors are M. J. Thun, S. F. Altekruse, M. M.

Namboodiri, E. E. Calle, D. G. Myers, and C. W. Heath, Jr.

2. "Hair Dye Use and Leukemia. " The authors are D.P.

Sandler, D.L. Shore, C.D. Bloomfield, and Cancer and Leukemia

Group B Investigators.

3. "Hair Dyes, Analgesics, Tranquilizers and Perineal

Talc Application as Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer." The authors

are A. Tzonou, A. Polychronopoulou, C. Hsieh, A. Rebelakos, A.

Karakatsani, and D. Trichopoulos.

4. "Hair Dye Use in White Men and Risk of Multiple

Myeloma. The authors are L. M. Brown, G. D. Everett, L. F.

Burmaister, and A. Blair.

5. "Use of hair coloring products and the risk of lymphoma,

multiple myeloma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia." The authors

are S. H. Zahm, D. D. Weisenburger, P. A. Babbitt, R. C. Saal; J.

B. Vaught, and A. Blair.

6. "Hair dye use and risk of leukemia and lymphoma." The authors

are K. P. Cantor, A. Blair, G. Everett, S. VanLier, L.

Burmaister, F. R. Dick, R. W. Gibson, and L. Schuman.

Source: National Institutes of Health, February 1, 1994

Transmitted: 94-03-07 16:29:39 EST

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