Cancer: The popular hair tool that can contain ‘high levels’ of cancer-causing chemicals – Express

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There is growing interest in the science of hair, particularly in things it reveals about our health. It is a two-way street, however, as even our hair-care habits have wide-reaching implications for health. Doctor Charlotte Woodward, Clinical Director at River Aesthetics, broke down several conditions your hair may conceal, and which grooming habits could lead to unfavourable health outcomes.
According to health experts, some of the perils of using a flat iron are often overlooked, despite health authorities flagging potential cancer risks.
The FDA has previously noted that exposure to formaldehyde for longer periods of time and at higher concentrations increases health risks.
The chemical, found in a great number of hair straightening tools, was classified as a carcinogen after it emerged exposure caused nasal squamous cell carcinoma in rats.
In humans, exposure to the carcinogen increased the risk for nasopharyngeal cancers, even at low levels.
READ MORE: Cancer symptoms: The ‘feeling’ that strikes first thing in the morning – it’s a red flag
Cancer risk: Formaldehyde
According to Penn University’s website: “One of the most terrifying side effects of hair straightening is the chance of severe hair fall.
“This nightmare happens when the flat iron breaks down the hair from the roots.
“Unfortunately, with all the risks that come from straightening your hair, some flat irons are much worse than others.
“[…] Some flat irons on the market have high levels of a chemical known as formaldehyde (also referred to as methylene glycol).”
The risk is most prominent when the flat iron is fully heated, noted the experts, as this is when formaldehyde is released as a gas, causing the eyes, nose, and throat to become irritated.
“In more severe terms, long-term exposure to formaldehyde has been related to an elevated risk of cancer,” adds Penn University.
Although the potentially harmful side effects of these habits should not be ignored, Doctor Charlotte Woodward pointed to the other clues of ill-health that hair can reveal.
People with thyroid problems commonly contend with changes in the appearance of their hair, as well as shedding, explained the expert.
She added: “In addition to losing hair, many thyroid issues put you at risk for alopecia areata, an autoimmune hair loss syndrome.
“This form of hair loss is caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles, resulting in circular patches of unexpected hair loss.”
Treating the condition appropriately can prevent the onset of hair loss, so symptoms of under-active thyroid should not be ignored.
The most blatant warning signs generally encompass depression and persistent fatigue. Sometimes, the outer edges of the eyebrow can become thinner.
Cancer: The signs and symptoms
Alongside hypothyroidism, other hormone imbalances implicated in hair changes are Cushing’s syndrome, added Doctor Woodword.
The disorder, which is relatively uncommon, is characterised by too much cortisol – the body’s stress hormone.
It is common for hair to respond to sudden hormonal fluctuations, but sex hormones tend to have the greatest impact on hair growth.
Doctor Woodword added: “Hair loss can also occur temporarily in response to rapid increases in oestrogen levels as seen following pregnancy or the discontinuation of birth control tablets.”
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