Henna could cause leukemia in women

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Synthetic forms of henna dye may be linked to high rates of acute myeloid leukemia in women, according to a new research.

The new research says women in the UAE are almost twice as likely as men to develop leukemia, and synthetic forms of henna dye could be the cause, a news report quoting scientists here has said.

A study conducted by UAE University published in the journal Leukemia and Lymphoma found that the rate of acute myeloid leukemia — an often-fatal cancer of the blood and  bone marrow — was 93 percent higher among Emirati women than men, The National report said.

The study looked at 263 cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphoblast leukemia (ALL) over a seven-year period from January 2000 to December 2006.

According to the report, the risk factors linked to leukemia include age, exposure to radiation, smoking and genetic disorders. However, it remains very rare.
“Chemicals in henna dye, which is used to decorate the body, as well as a lack of sunlight could be behind the increased incidence,” Dr. Inaam Hassan, an associate professor at the UAE University in Al Ain, said.

“I could not understand the results because men and women live in the same environment; they eat the same foods and breathe the same air,” she said.

“The only difference was the use of henna,” she added. Emirati women were also 63 percent more likely to be affected than expatriate women.

The study also found that the rate of AML among UAE nationals was 78 percent higher than in expatriates. The rate of ALL was 25 percent higher in Emiratis. Emirati women were also almost twice as likely as Emirati men to develop acute myeloid leukemia.

Decorative henna is used on many occasions, including a child’s first day at school, weddings or Eid celebrations, she said.

The US Food and Drug Administration do not allow henna plant dye to be used on the skin.

“The henna used here is often made with benzene, (which) is a well documented factor causing this specific type of leukemia,” Dr. Hassan said.
“Women here use henna on all occasions, and children also use it. They don’t only put it on their hands, they put it on their whole arms,” she said.

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