To Dye or Not To Dye. A Million Dollar Question
BY LIZZY SMITH for Myeloma Crowd
My hair is finally growing back after many months of baldness. During the time of “no hair” I wore wigs or caps, no exceptions.
And then about 45 days post melphalan, I started seeing the first signs that my hair was growing. Hooray! Last month, we went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and I just couldn’t wear a wig in the heat and humidity so I went natural—either the small amount of hair on my head was good enough or I wore hats to keep my scalp from burning.
And when I came back, it was still a bit chilly so hats were the simple, and most comfy, choice.
Today, I have maybe two inches of hair and I have ventured out, even among people I know, with it as is. I’ve been stopped a few times asking who does my hair. So apparently I don’t look like Cancer Girl anymore—some people think I did this on purpose. It is different than my long hair. I’ve had to start developing a new “brand” on how I see myself and how others might see me. Short hair is stronger, more angles, harsher. Ok, fine. I think it ages me but perhaps I’m just getting older, (and I’m happy to age, because that means I’m still alive).
But… my hair is coming back all sorts of grey and I don’t like it. I desperately want to color it light blonde—like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.
But what is concerning me is the toxins I may be exposing myself. Pre cancer diagnosis, I colored my hair about once per month. I also got Brazilian blow-outs, which make one’s hair super silky, shiny, and straight. Did this contribute to getting multiple myeloma? When I did my first tandem stem cell transplants and my hair grew back, I colored my hair about once per month. No Brazilian blow-outs this time—I decided the toxic risks were too great. I also switched up all my haircare products, like shampoos, conditioners and hairsprays, to organic-type products. No parabens, at a minimum. There are a surprisingly great number of products that fall into this category.
But now it’s time to decide… color or not? Grey or blonde? Are hair dyes toxic enough to cause cancer? I did a little research and found this from the American Cancer Society. Here are excerpts that summarize findings…
It’s not clear how much personal hair dye use might raise cancer risk, if at all. Most studies done so far have not found a strong link, but more studies are needed to help clarify this issue.
Most of the studies looking at whether hair dye products increase the risk of cancer have focused on certain cancers such as bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer. These studies have looked at 2 groups of people:
- People who use hair dyes regularly
- People who are exposed to them at work
Bladder cancer: Most studies of people exposed to hair dyes at work, such as hairdressers and barbers, have found a small but fairly consistent increased risk of bladder cancer. However, studies looking at people who have their hair dyed have not found a consistent increase in bladder cancer risk.
Leukemias and lymphomas: Studies looking at a possible link between personal hair dye use and the risk of blood-related cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma have had mixed results. For example, some studies have found an increased risk of certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (but not others) in women who use hair dyes, especially if they began use before 1980 and/or use darker colors. The same types of results have been found in some studies of leukemia risk. However, other studies have not found an increased risk. If there is an effect of hair dye use on blood-related cancers, it is likely to be small.
Breast and other cancers: Most studies looking at hair dye use and breast cancer have not found an increased risk. For other types of cancer, too few studies have been done to be able to draw any firm conclusions.Many people use hair dyes, so it is important that more studies are done to get a better idea if these dyes affect cancer risk.
For me, all of this is… clear as mud. So am I going to color my hair? Well, vanity won the day.
Here I am at the salon "before."
I love it. And I’m now on a quest to find a good hair color that is non-toxic and one that my stylist will agree to try on me.
Until then, when I can't figure out what to do with it, bandanas and baseball cps rule the day.