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BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7503.1289 (Published 02 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1289
  1. Alison Tonks, associate editor (atonks@bmj.com)

    Hair dye is unlikely to cause cancer

    Millions of women (and men) worldwide dye their hair every few weeks with potentially toxic chemicals. Should they be worried about cancer? Probably not, say researchers from Spain and Canada who recently searched the literature for evidence of a link and drew a blank. They found 79 studies in all, covering a range of cancers, including breast (14 studies), bladder (10 studies), and haematological cancers (40 studies). Hair dye, used a little or a lot, was not convincingly associated with any of them. The only hint of a problem came from 17 case-control studies that included men. When combined, their results suggested a small increased risk of haematological cancer among men who had ever used hair dye (relative risk 1.57, 95% CI 1.33 to1.84), an isolated finding that could simply be due to publication bias or flaws in the studies' methods, say the authors.

    Overall, their findings are reassuring but not unexpected. The most carcinogenic chemicals, diaminotoluene and diaminoanisole, were taken out of hair dyes more than 30 years ago, long before any of the studies in this review were …

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