Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 24, 2011

Hair Dye and Cancer: News From New England?

big hair

Image by sushi the great via Flickr

In my never-ceasing search for all Maine health knowledge, I came across the newly published NIH study on the use of hair dyes and bladder cancer in New England

Let’s start with the basics.  The use of hair dye did not cause bladder cancer when you looked at the population as a whole.  Whew, but wait. 

In women who were slow processors of hair dye, the risk of bladder cancer was seven times higher if they used hair dye.  If this terrifies you and you just must have blue hair, have your doctor check you for NAT2 slow acetylation.  It will be a send away test, probably to the Mayo Clinic labs, but it would give you a pretty good idea if you have increased risk. 

Ok, but you can drink like a fish, so you’re not likely to have a slow liver.  The study also found a three-fold risk among college educated women.  I guess the ivy league ladies are allergic to hair dye?  Or maybe, failing to get any major effect overall, the researchers started putting together any subgroups they could find?  I guess I could buy the idea that a college aged woman might be wealthier and therefore might be more likely to have decent health care and be diagnosed more often with bladder cancer.  But they should have controlled for that. 

So I’m not sure what to make of the study on hair dye.  Maybe sometimes the answer is nope, not an issue.  But if you can’t handle your liquor, it still makes sense that your body might have issues with other volatile chemicals like hair fixatives. 


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