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Chemicals in Hair-Straightening Products Linked to an Increased Risk of Uterine Cancer: Study

A woman brushing her hair

For women with textured and curly hair, sometimes it’s exciting to change up your everyday style by going for a straight look. But if you’re someone who favours using chemical straighteners (such as relaxers) instead of using heated hair-straightening tools, it may be worth noting that the chemicals in these products may be linked to an increase the risk of uterine cancer, according to a new study.

The National Institutes of Health conducted the study with 33,497 participants over 11 years and found that the ones who used chemical products designed to straighten their tresses more than four times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer.

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“We estimated that 1.6 [per cent] 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 [per cent],” said the study’s lead author, Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology. “This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context — uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”

A woman with a flower in her hair

Black women who use chemical straighteners may have greater adverse health affects

The study did not find that the relationship between straightener use and the increased risk of uterine cancer varied by race; however, the study authors did report that the negative health outcomes may be greater for Black women, as approximately 60 per cent of the participants who reported using chemical straighteners identified as Black.

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Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors who is a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch explained: “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.”

Researchers also examined the use of other hair products and treatments such as dyes and perms, but found they were not strongly linked with incident uterine cancer.


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