According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) women who use chemical hair straightening products more frequently are at higher risk of uterine cancer compared to women who did not report using these products.
NIH conducted the study using 33,497 volunteers from the United States between the age of 35-74. The women were followed for almost 11 years and during that time 378 uterine cancer cases were diagnosed.
Moreover, it was identified that women of colour and those who used these products more than 4 times in a year were at higher risk.
“We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” said Alexandra White, PhD, head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study.
“This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context – uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”
As per the study, Uterine cancer accounts for about 3% of all new cancer cases, however, it was also found that it is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, with 65,950 estimated new cases in 2022 (60% were women of colour skin).
“Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them,” said Che-Jung Chang, PhD, an author of the new study and a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch.
On the other hand, the researchers involved in the study did not collect information on brands or ingredients in the hair products the women used. However, in the research, the chemicals that were found in the straightener products include parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde, among others that are contributing factors to uterine cancer.
These chemicals were found in playing a hand in causing burns, and lesions, and were being absorbed by the scalp which is extremely harmful.
“To our knowledge, this is the first epidemiologic study that examined the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer,” said White. “More research is needed to confirm these findings in different populations, to determine if hair products contribute to health disparities in uterine cancer, and to identify the specific chemicals that may be increasing the risk of cancers in women.”
This team previously found that permanent hair dyes and straighteners may increase breast and ovarian cancer risk.
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