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Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2002 Jul;16(3):226-35.

West Coast study of childhood brain tumours and maternal use of hair-colouring products.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of California-San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 280, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA.


The immature nervous system of the fetus is characterised by rapid cell growth and division and is particularly vulnerable to carcinogens and mutagens. Several epidemiological studies have reported an increased risk for childhood brain tumours (CBT) associated with exposure to N-nitroso compounds (NOC). Hair-colouring products (hair "dyes") that contain NOC-related aromatic amines have shown mutagenicity in vitro and carcinogenic properties in vivo. The potential public health impact of the relationship between hair dye use and carcinogenesis has prompted epidemiological research, given that a large proportion of American women have used hair dyes. A large population-based case-control study was conducted on the west coast of the USA to investigate risk factors for CBT including exposure to NOC. Eligible CBT patients (<20 years of age and diagnosed between 1984 and 1991) were identified from cancer registries in Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay Area in California and the Seattle area in Washington state. A total of 540 biological mothers of these children were interviewed, and 801 control subjects who were frequency matched to the CBT patients on birth year and sex were obtained using random digit dialling. Mothers were asked details about personal use of hair dyes during the index pregnancy including frequency of use, trimester of use and type of dye used. Results from age- and sex-adjusted unconditional logistic regression analyses showed no association between risk for CBT and use of hair dyes 1 month before and/or during pregnancy nor during specific trimesters. A nearly twofold increased risk for CBT was associated with single-interval use during the 1 month before pregnancy, but the confidence interval (CI) was imprecise and the estimate was not different from unity (OR = 1.9, 95% CI [0.5, 7.0]). Exclusive use of permanent dye, temporary dye or hair darkeners was not associated with risk for CBT. A twofold increased risk (OR = 2.0, 95% CI [0.83, 4.7]) was observed with exclusive use of semi-permanent dye during the month before or during pregnancy. Exclusive use of semi-permanent dye during the month before pregnancy and/or first trimester also was associated with an elevated risk for CBT, again not different from unity and with an imprecise CI (OR = 2.5, 95% CI = [0.58, 10.3]). There was no evidence of an association between risk for CBT by histological subtypes and use of hair dyes during the index pregnancy or the month before conception. Together with results from previous studies, these results provide no consistent evidence of an association between risk for CBT and use of hair dyes during pregnancy.

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