Hair Style Products are Mostly Safe

A recent study concluded that hair style products are mostly safe when it comes to causing cancer. In the past there was some concern that the dyes for hair coloring could cause cancer. In a previous blog I mentioned that hair stylists are at a greater risk for developing bladder cancer.  But in customers who had their hair colored this was more difficult to prove. The new study reviewed by CNN was based on a large cohort of 117,200 female nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

These 30-55-year-old nurses were observed for 36 years. Detailed information about hair coloring was part of the study.

Results of the hair coloring study

Women with light and medium use of hair dyes did not develop non-melanoma skin cancers, hematopoietic cancers or squamous skin cancers. The same was true for bladder cancer, melanoma, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, progesterone receptor positive breast cancer and hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Furthermore hair coloring did not cause brain cancer, colorectal cancer, kidney cancer and lung cancer. 5% of women who ever used hair dyes did develop basal cell skin cancer; there was a total of 22,560 basal cell cancers that occurred.

The BJM showed that women who colored their hair regularly (termed “cumulative dose”) developed 24%-31% more breast cancer. This breast cancer was estrogen negative breast cancer (31%) and progesterone negative breast cancer (24%). They also developed 24% more ovarian cancers and 17% colorectal cancer than controls who did not dye their hair. Myeloid leukemias were also more common in the heavy use hair coloring group with 29% and follicular lymphomas with 13%. Other forms of leukemia were not more frequent.


50% to 80% of women and about 10% of men ages 40 and older are using hair dye regularly in the United States and Europe. The above cited cancer frequencies were based on women with dark hair and a cumulative dose of more than 200 applications of permanent hair dye. Translated into years of application of hair dye this means coloring your hair for 16 to 17 years, if you color your hair once a month. The study is very powerful due to the large number of women examined and the amazingly long time of 36 years of observation.

Heavy use, medium and light use of hair dyes

It is interesting to note that only the heavy use of hair dye resulted in a few significant cancer figures. The light use (1 to 99 times) and medium use (100 to 199 times) of hair dyes did hardly lead to any cancer. There were some exceptions where light use of hair dye led to 34% more bladder cancer and to 67% more follicular lymphomas. These were oddities, because the lighter use of hair dyes led to higher amounts of these cancers than medium and heavy use. This is not what the researchers expected.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer

Hodgkin’s lymphoma was about 3- to 5-fold more common in all hair coloring categories compared to non-use of hair dye. The authors discussed subgroups of women as well. They noticed that black women using permanent hair dye had a higher risk to develop breast cancer than white women who only had a borderline increased risk. Estrogen negative, progesterone negative and hormone negative breast cancer was more likely to be caused by heavy use of hair dyes.

No association between the following cancers and hair dye use

The present study could not find an association between ever using hair dye and the following. The study found no association with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer. In addition there also was no association with  kidney cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer. But it found a slight increased risk (5%) of basal cell carcinoma.

The study contains no information regarding the specific ingredients in hair dye that are carcinogenic. In the US supervision of permanent hair dyes by the FDA is rather loose. This leaves the manufacturer mostly in charge regarding the composition of the hair dyes. This is different in Europe and in Japan. Here manufacturers removed several carcinogenic substances from hair dyes because of regulations by the local regulatory bodies. This could have a cancer-lowering effect in these countries.

Hair Style Products are Mostly Safe

Hair Style Products are Mostly Safe


This large study from the British Medical Journal, published Sept. 2, 2020 explains the relationship of cancer risk to permanent hair dyes. The study lasted 36 years and involved 117,200 female nurses. More than 96% of the women were Caucasians. This study showed that for most people who use permanent use hair dyes there is no association with most cancers. However, there was an association between a few cancers and the use of hair dyes. These were in 5% basal cell skin cancers. But breast cancer (31% estrogen receptor negative, 24% progesterone receptor negative), ovarian cancer (24%) and 17% colorectal cancer were among these too. There was also an increased risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Effect of screening by FDA regarding carcinogenic substances in hair dyes

All this data was based on the hair dyes used in the US. Supervision of permanent hair dyes by the FDA is rather loose, with the manufacturer being mostly in charge. This is different in Europe and in Japan. Here local regulatory bodies instructed manufacturers to remove several carcinogenic substances from hair dyes. This could have a cancer-lowering effect in these countries.


Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Recently new statistics came out that show that 48.8 million people in the US (19% of the population) still smoke. 22 % of the population are male, 17% female. Smoking is responsible for 20% of all deaths in the US (1 in 5 deaths). It is interesting to note that in the older age group (above the age of 65) only 8% are smoking, but 22 % of the 25 to 44 year old group is smoking. Among the American population Native Americans have the highest percentage of smokers (32% are smokers). 10% of Americans of Asian descend smoke. Blacks, Whites and Hispanics are placed in between them and the American Indians. Finally, people who can least afford it (who are below the poverty level) have the highest percentage of smokers (29% smoke) while 18% of people above the poverty level smoke. Education seems to have a protective effects when it comes to smoking: of the least educated group of people 45% are smokers while only 5% with postgraduate education smoke.

Effects of cigarette smoke on the body

As this link shows the concoction of various ingredients in the smoke of cigarettes causes various parts of the body to react differently to these chemicals. Here is a rundown of diseases caused by smoking cigarettes.

1. Lung cancer: This is the most common cause of death in women who smoke, more common now than breast cancer. 90% of lung cancers in women are due to smoking. The same was true in males, but as a group they now smoke less than in the past.

2. Other cancers:  cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder, esophageal, stomach, laryngeal, oral, and throat cancers are all caused by smoking. Recently acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow has been added to the list of smoking related cancers.

3. Abdominal aortic aneurysm: As cigarette smoke destroys elastic tissue, it is no wonder that the loss of support of the wall of the aortic artery leads to the development of large pouches, which eventually rupture with a high mortality rate due to massive blood loss.

4. Infections of lungs and gums: Smokers are prone to infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and of the gums (periodontitis).

5. Chronic lung diseases: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma.

6. Cataracts: lack of perfusion of the lens leads to premature cataract formation.

7. Coronary heart disease: hardening of the coronary arteries, which leads to heart attacks, is very common in smokers.

8. Reproduction: reduced fertility in mothers, premature rupture of membranes with prematurely born babies; low birth weight; all this leads to higher infant mortality. Sudden infant death syndrome is found more frequently in children of smoking moms (Ref. 1).

9. Intermittent claudication: after decades of smoking the larger arteries in the legs are hardening and not enough oxygen reaches the muscles to walk causing intermittent pausing to recover from the muscle aches. If it is feasible a cardiovascular surgeon may be able to do a bypass surgery to rescue the legs, often though this is not feasible and the patients lower legs or an entire lower limb may have to be amputated.

10. Others: osteoporosis is more common in smokers; poor eye sight develops due to age-related macular degeneration that sets in earlier and due to tobacco amblyopia, a toxic effect from tobacco on the optic nerve; hypothyroidism is aggravated by smoking and menopause occurs earlier.

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

What happens in the lung tissue in smokers?

Ref. 1 gives a detailed rundown of the changes in the lung tissue as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke. The various components of cigarette smoke lead to an activation of special white blood cells, called monocytes that after stimulation turn into tissue macrophages. In addition neutrophils (regular white blood cells) also get stimulated. Between them they produce cytokines and chemokines and the neutrophils secrete elastase that digests elastic tissue in the lungs. Breakdown products of the elastic tissue serve as a powerful stimulus to the immune system to mount an autoimmune response. After some time of being exposed to cigarette smoke the immune system considers part of the lining of the lungs as foreign and cytotoxic lymphocytes attack the lining of the air sacs (alveoli). Lung specialists consider chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD or emphysema) to be an autoimmune disease (Ref.1).

The sad part is that when this condition has progressed far enough, even quitting smoking may be too late to stop the autoimmune disease by itself as the body has been sensitized and the immune system is convinced that the altered lung tissue should be attacked. Add to this that carcinogenic substances and toxins in cigarette smoke damage the DNA of all cells and the energy producing mitochondria, and the stage is set for the combination of chronic inflammation and the release of free radicals to cause all of the diseases mentioned above.

Quit smoking still important

It is extremely important to quit as soon as possible to avoid the full-fledged sensitization of the immune system against ones own lung tissue. Studies have shown that 36% of survivors of heart attacks will successfully quit, 21% of healthy men with a known risk of cardiovascular disease will quit when asked to do so and 8% of pregnant women will quit. When a physician examines a patient in the office and asks a smoker to quit smoking 2% of these smokers will respond and still not smoke 1 year after this doctor’s visit. This may not sound like much, but it is an encouraging effect. Perhaps the most important fact is what I mentioned in the beginning of this blog: the least educated group of people smoked the most (45%) while the most educated people smoked the least (5% of people with a postgraduate education). My hope is that the Internet and other educational media will contribute to education to convince people how important prevention is.

Pharmacological assistance to quit smoking

Nicotine replacement therapy can involve any of 2- and 4-mg nicotine polacrilex gum, transdermal nicotine patches, nicotine nasal spray, the nicotine inhaler or nicotine lozenges. Discuss with your doctor what may be best in your case. Typically one of these products is used for 3 to 6 months.

Bupropion is an antidepressant with a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor affinity. Bupropion is useful to help with the withdrawal from nicotine addiction, which occurs in depressed or non-depressed people. It strictly has to do with the stimulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.  Typically the dose is 150 mg of a sustained released bupropion tablet per day for 7 days prior to stopping smoking, then at 300 mg (two 150-mg sustained-release doses) per day for the next 6 to 12 weeks. 44% quit at 7 weeks versus 19% of controls. A newer nicotine partial receptor stimulator, varenicline, has been compared to bupropion. It was slightly more effective in helping people to get off cigarettes. Varenicline is started at a dose of 0.5 mg per day for 3 days, then 0.5 mg twice daily for 4 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 1 mg twice daily. If nausea is a problem, lower doses can be used. Varenicline has been approved for a 3-month period with an option of a second 3-month period, if relapse occurs. Discuss with your doctor what is best for you.

According to Ref. 1 a combination therapy of bupropion and nicotine patch was more effective than either one alone.

Will power, hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy to quit smoking has been popular, but is not as effective as it is often claimed. Will power, measured by the “placebo” response is quite effective given the fact that nicotine is very addictive and yet 19% in the placebo group were able to quit on their own. According to Ref. 1 varenicline treatment for 12 weeks produced abstinence for 9 to 52 weeks and was compared to bupropion and placebo. The abstinence rates were 23%, 15%, and 10% for varenicline, bupropion, and placebo. This means that will power was still 2/3 as effective as bupropion and 43% as effective as varenicline. Don’t underestimate will power!


The best scenario is to never start smoking. The second best is to quit as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the third scenario of continuing to smoke is still very prevalent worldwide. I have seen the damage done first hand in practicing medicine, which motivated me to never smoke. But I am aware of the difficulties of quitting because of the highly addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Where is the support from governments on this? The problem is that the government benefits from taxation of cigarettes. Nevertheless it is laudable that there are government sites through the CDC to help you quit smoking.

At the end we are all responsible for our own health. If you are presently smoking, psych yourself up for the day that you will quit. Quitting means that you are deciding actively to live longer. Studies have shown that it takes often several attempts before you eventually quit successfully.More information on some of the topics mentioned:

1. Lung cancer and other cancers:

2. Heart attack:

3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:


1. Mason: Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 5th ed.© 2010 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014


Get Rid Of Toxins Safely

You often hear that chelation could be done effectively using home remedies. Is that true?

The standard chelation detoxification

I like to mention in the beginning that the proven way to reduce heavy metals in the blood (typically mercury and lead) is by intravenous chelating agents such as EDTA. However, the lowering of calcium levels as a severe side effect limits the application of it. There are also blood-thinning side effects to consider. EDTA is a chemically synthesized compound, not a natural substance. Conversely, vitamin C and Glutathione are both antioxidant substances that the body knows; they are non-toxic and can be used more easily intravenously to remove heavy metals like lead and mercury with fewer side effects than EDTA. Although I think that EDTA has a place in the hands of those who are knowledgeable about the side effects, the vitamin C/Glutathione combination is probably a more physiological detoxification method as glutathione is synthesized by the liver to detoxify our bodies. Intravenous chelation is expensive, requires access to a vein and may not be a suitable way for many people to detoxify. There are natural ways to detox for those who cannot afford chelation or cannot chelate for other health reasons.  The major detoxification organs are: the liver, the kidneys, the gut, the lungs and the skin.

What about oral methods to detoxify?

Several methods of cleansing are fasting, the major cleanse or the raw food cleanse. I would not advise to do strict fasting without fluid intake as it takes fluid intake to be able to dissolve any released toxins into urine, feces, invisible fluid from exhaled air and nasal discharge. Next there is the “master cleanse” with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper as indicated in the link above. Some people like trendy procedures that are written up in a magazine or in a self-help book. I do not like it, as it reminds me too much of a cookbook approach.

I feel differently about a raw food cleanse as I will explain. First, I like to point out that raw food is not easily digested as your gut absorbs only about 30 to 40% of the nutrients. The cell walls of the vegetables you use are the barrier towards absorption. This is much different, if you put the raw fruit and vegetables into a blender with a high power motor. (There are several brands like the BlendTec or the Vitamix.) The powerful blending process breaks up the cell walls and releases the content of the plant cells including their enzymes and nutrients, so that 80% of the nutrients are absorbed in your gut.

Get Rid Of Toxins Safely

Get Rid Of Toxins Safely

If you use organic ingredients (they do not contain toxins, artificial fertilizer residues etc.) you cannot go wrong! Use spinach, kale, banana, mango, greens, lemon juice, and for fat add some nuts like walnuts, Macadamia nuts, almonds (provided you are not allergic to them). With the help of a powerful blender all this will turn into a liquid drink that actually tastes OK. For protein supplementation I would also add some protein supplement like vegan protein from the health food store, whey protein or egg white protein (good to rotate these protein supplements). This mix is a complete nutritional program as it contains complex carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, fat from nuts, protein from the protein supplement and fiber (from the whole vegetables and fruit). You will not get hunger pangs as with a fast or the master cleanse. Use the signs of your body as guidance. If you feel energized after 5 days, stop then and return to your normal food intake (zone type diet, a Mediterranean diet or South Beach diet as explained below). Some people have the will power to do 7 to 10 days of the liquid diet described. Good for them, at least they do not starve themselves as the calories and total nutrient content are there while they detoxify. What are the agents that lead to the detoxification process? It is the enzymes released from the fruit and vegetables, the lack of toxins as you only consume organic ingredients , the extra vitamin C from the food and the glutathione contributed from your liver that are working together.

Are there supplements that can help you to detoxify?

Chlorella powder, which you can buy in health food stores, is one of the few supplements that can detoxify your body from heavy metals. As Dr. Mercola describes that in Japan chlorella powder is one of the most popular supplements to detoxify. It is difficult to get a complete, non-biased picture about chlorella. I did an extensive research in MD Consult about the scientific evidence for detoxification by chlorella in humans. Unfortunately the search results came back only for experiments with mice and rats, but there were no human detox results. Perhaps the Wikipedia description about the history of algae and chlorella as a possible food supplement sheds some light on the difficulties getting real hard data on chlorella detoxification. In rats that were deliberately poisoned with cadmium (a heavy toxic metal) no convincing detoxification with chlorella could be detected when cadmium poisoning was stopped. However, the article goes on to say that chlorella did prevent absorption of cadmium from the intestines to a certain extent (in rats).

Liver detoxification and colonic detoxification

Dr. Max Gerson invented coffee enemas many years ago when he treated end stage cancer patients with natural methods. He found that when he detoxified them with raw juices, many cancer patients died from the toxic breakdown products of dying tumor cells. So he was in dire need of a procedure that would remove the toxic tumor substances efficiently.  This is when coffee enemas were used. As the link above describes, coffee given through the colon as an enema (we would perhaps call it “coffee colonics” today) stimulates the liver and the bile flow thus detoxifying the blood effectively of toxic materials. In addition the secretory capability of the large surface of the colon wall also helps the detoxification process. Juicing in combination with coffee enemas improved Dr. Gerson’s end stage cancer cure rates dramatically. Subsequently, Dr. Kelley developed his nutritional-metabolic therapy for end stage cancer patients where he added large amounts of pancreatic enzymes in addition to coffee enemas. Dr. Denis Burkitt is credited for recognizing the importance of fiber in the diet. He noticed that there was a striking difference between the colon cancer rates in England versus the rates in Africa. He analyzed food habits and came to the conclusion that back home there was not enough fiber consumed. A large study done by the Harvard Medical School showed that it was not so much the fiber that helped to prevent colon cancer. Further large scale studies were done and it was shown that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains was what was responsible for a reduction in colon cancer rates. This type of diet will also help detoxify your system from carcinogenic substances in general and from other toxins as the soluble fiber inside the gut will attach to it and go down the toilet instead of being reabsorbed in the colon into your system causing cancer.

Skin detoxification

The skin is the largest body organ with a lot of skin surface where skin pores can help detoxify under the right circumstances. This can be achieved with infrared saunas, with exercise that leads to production of sweat and by soaking in Epsom salt baths. Traditionally this has been done for centuries in the European spas, originally described by Sebastian Kneipp. The medical establishment in Europe (France, England, Germany, Austria), unlike American physicians, embraced the concept of natural therapies under the term “balneology”, at least for a number of decades. But  overuse by patients (abusing the system), badmouthing the relatively weak effect of detoxifying by Big Pharma and lack of funds from the health insurance companies put a damper on his movement. Part of this approach was the use of skin detoxification with healing baths (using Epsom salt and other salts) and physical exercise to the point of sweating. In addition “Waechselbaeder” according to Sebastian Kneipp (alternating hot and cold baths) were also used to stimulate the circulation and the immune system. The major component of Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which can be absorbed through the skin to a certain degree. So, some of the healing effect of Epsom salt baths may have come from an indirect balancing of low blood magnesium and the normalization of many metabolic processes that require magnesium as co-factors. Here is another, more vernacular description of Epsom salt use. Some of the assumptions such as improvement of diabetes, improvement of digestive absorption or relief from migraine headaches may be a combination of exaggeration and placebo effect rather than reality.

Kidney detoxification

The kidneys along with the liver are the major, natural detoxification organs of the body. However, they need enough fluids to dissolve water-soluble toxins and eliminate them from the body through the urine. Clean water should be consumed intermittently during the day (reverse osmosis water in glass bottles or BPA free bottled water). Because alcohol is a cell poison damaging the vital organs like the brain, heart, liver and kidneys it is best to minimize any alcohol intake to the absolute minimum (best to avoid alcohol altogether). The main filtration devices in the kidneys are the glomeruli, little packages of convoluted capillaries, which filter the blood several times per day. High salt intake, too much sugar and too much starch interfere with normal function of the glomeruli. Insulin resistance as is the case with metabolic syndrome and diabetes (often associated with obesity) will damage the filtration devices of the kidneys and cause toxin accumulation. To prevent damage of the kidney capillaries you need a healthy, basic diet like the Zone diet, South Beach diet or the Mediterranean diet as mentioned in this link.

This will keep fat deposits out of your arteries and the capillaries of the glomeruli of your kidneys, so the filtration process continues to work until a ripe old age. Your doctor can order tests (creatinine clearance) to assess whether the filtration capacity of your kidneys is normal.

Many toxins are fat-soluble and are stored in the fatty tissues. When you lose weight, you will need to drink more fluids to get rid of the water-soluble toxins through the kidneys and use coffee enemas to rid yourself of fat-soluble toxins (through bile and bowel movements).

There are a lot of websites that want to sell you herbs that should cleanse your system. They have a marginal effect, but I would stress that you want to adopt one of the diets mentioned above first to start with a healthy baseline. Such herbs as Buchu (Agathosma Betulina), Burdock, Echinacea and Yellow Dock Root (Rumex Crispus) are supposed to help the kidneys to detoxify. I am not certain whether there is medical proof for this.


Detoxification starts with adopting healthy food and lifestyle habits first. A low carb, low fat type diet as indicated (zone diet, a Mediterranean diet or South Beach diet) will be the footing from which the other detoxification methods will work. Some of the toxins will leave you when you work out and sweat. More will leave you when you enjoy an Epsom salt bath. This will give you some extra magnesium, which in turn will help to detoxify your system through several biochemical reactions where magnesium is a co-factor. Colonics or enemas will help remove toxins through your colon and they are more effective when coffee enemas are used (stimulation of your liver through the splanchnic nerves).

Infrared saunas can help to mobilize toxins and detoxify them through your skin. Take ample amounts of fluids as this will help remove some toxins through the kidneys and the urinary system. If major heavy metal poisoning were detected, the traditional intravenous chelation treatments described at the beginning of this blog would be more recommendable. A naturopathic physician or A4M physician (anti-aging physician) could advice you what is best in your case. Overall the thought is that by removing toxins the mitochondria in our cells, particularly in the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys can work more effectively giving you more energy and preventing the major diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), diabetes, arthritis and loss of cognitive function (Alzheimer’s disease and dementia).

More information about:

1. Chelation therapy:

2. Vitamins, minerals and detoxification:

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Incoming search terms:


Cancer Risk Higher For Hairstylists or Barbers

A report coming from the International Agency for Research on Cancer which was recently published in the Lancet Oncology reported that working as a hairstylist or barber does have occupational hazards. A small but consistent risk for bladder cancer was noted in male hairdressers and barbers. As there were no reliable data on duration and periods of exposure the data are considered to be limited evidence of a cancer risk. Some carcinogenic substances have been present in modern hair dyes.

These particular colorants were discontinued in the 1970’s after positive cancer tests in mice and rats were seen. The researchers also examined the personal use of hair dyes, but could not show an adequate evidence that hair dyes would be cancerogenic. As a result they also could not definitely judge that the dyes carried a cancer risk.

Other chemicals that like hair dyes belong into the group of aromatic amines were assessed by the researchers.

Ortho-toluidine which is used in the production of dyes, pigments and rubber chemicals is now classified as a carcinogenic substance to humans, as is the chemical called MOCA , which stands for 4,4-methylene bis (2-chloroaniline) and is used as a curing substance in the plastics industry.

Cancer Risk Higher For Hairstylists or Barbers

Cancer Risk Higher For Hairstylists or Barbers

The consumer needs to be aware that the cosmetics industry that produces shampoos  and hair conditioners and companies that produce hair dye for home use often use parabens and other mildly carcinogenic substances as a preservative that will be additive to the cancer producing effect of the hair dyes used in saloons.

More information on carcinogens:

Reference: The Lancet Oncology – Volume 9, Issue 4 (April 2008)

Last edited November 3, 2014