Aging usually means gray hair. Getting gray hair means deciding whether to dye it another color or not. Many of us have dyed our hair but concerns of cancer-causing ingredients in hair dye can leave us feeling uncertain about whether to continue.
Some studies performed in the 1970s did show cancer in tested animals from certain ingredients called aromatic amines in hair dye. Due to this finding, most manufacturers removed those ingredients by 1980.
According to the National Cancer Institute, some people who used hair dye before they were removed in 1980 do have a higher risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (1)
Bladder cancer risk in professional hairdressers has been found in a meta-analysis that reviewed 42 studies. This is due to their occupational exposure, particularly in those who have worked with hair dyes for over 10 years. (2)
The National Cancer Institute stated that research on hair dyes for personal use did not show increased bladder cancer risk while other studies have shown conflicting results.
Breast cancer risk has not been found to be increased with permanent hair dye use. The Susan G. Komen Foundation website states “cohort and case-control studies have shown the use of permanent hair dyes is not related the risk of breast cancer. A meta-analysis that combined the results of 14 studies confirmed these findings.” (3)
Risks of hair dye use and leukemia have conflicting results with different outcomes for those who used dye before 1980 and those after. The risk was found to be highest in those using hair dye for over 15 years. The National Cancer Institute stated that no increases were seen among those who have used more recent formulations of hair dye.
A 2005 Italian study indicated that use of black hair dye was associated with increased cancer risk but the study did not collect information on the frequency of hair dye use. (1)
Pregnant mothers are also often concerned about the risk of birth defects from exposure to hair dye. About.com stated that animal studies have shown birth defects from high doses of hair dye, but birth defects have not been linked to human studies.