Q. My beautician says that hair dyes are absorbed into the circulatory and lymphatic system and can cause some forms of cancer. Is this true?
A. The safety of hair dyes has been debated since the 1970s. Questions have been raised about whether such products are absorbed into the blood stream and whether they increase the risk of blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
A study published in the *International Journal of Cancer* (Feb 2001) linked long-term monthly hair-dye use to bladder cancer. The European Consumers’ Organization has recently asked regulators to “advise consumers on what they might do to reduce or minimize the risk.” The cosmetic industry and regulators have responded that they don’t have enough information to determine if the risk is significant.
We are sending you our Guide to Hair and Nail Care which provides a historical perspective and advice on prudent precautions. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $1 with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. H-31, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. My 8-year-old son has warts on his fingers and a couple on the bottom of his feet. All of them have been frozen off, a procedure he finds very painful. Is there anything else we can do?
A. We just received the following from another reader: “About two years ago my daughter had several plantar warts on the bottom of her foot. Her doctor advised her to take Tagamet. The warts began to go away almost immediately, and in a few weeks they were completely gone. When the warts disappeared she discontinued the Tagamet. The warts have not returned.”
There is research to support the use of Tagamet (cimetidine) against warts. Another option is duct tape. A recent study (Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Oct. 2002) compared duct tape to freezing warts. Duct tape worked better and didn’t hurt.
To try this, cut a piece of duct tape to the size of the wart and apply it for six days, replacing it if it falls off. Then remove it, soak the wart in water, sand it down with an emery board, and leave the wart uncovered overnight. Reapply the duct tape for another six days. This procedure can be repeated for up to two months.
Q. I am concerned about excess vitamins, especially for my mother. She takes a special formula on the advice of her eye doctor. It contains a lot of vitamin A. In addition, she takes a regular multivitamin and consumes cereal and milk that are fortified with more vitamins.
Mother has osteoporosis and is taking Fosamax and Miacalcin. I’m worried because I think I’ve read somewhere that too much Vitamin A is not good for the bones.
A. Your fears are justified. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan 23, 2003) reports that high levels of vitamin A increase the risk of fractures in Swedish men. This reinforces previous research showing that excess vitamin A can contribute to weakened bones and fractures in women.
Vitamin A is found in foods such as liver, kidney, fish and milk. It is also found in fortified cereal. Your mother’s intake of vitamin A from supplements should not exceed 10,000 IU, or twice the RDA. Beta carotene, one source of vitamin A, is not associated with osteoporosis.

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