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‘Since black women use relaxers more often, they have the highest utirine cancer risk’

  • These utirine cancer, findings may be especially relevant for black women, since they use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and initiate use earlier than other races and ethnicities.
  • The women were monitored for almost 11 years, and during that time there were 378 cases of uterine cancer identified.

A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NHI) found that uterine cancer risk was higher for women who used chemical hair straightening products compared to women who did not report using these products. Other hair products used by the women, such as hair dyes, bleach, highlights, and perms, were not linked to uterine cancer, according to the researchers.

The Sister Study is an investigation into the causes of breast cancer and other illnesses that is being led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a division of the NIH. 378 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed while the women were being monitored for almost 11 years.

According to the study, women who used hair straightening products frequently—defined as more than four times in the previous year—were more than twice as likely to later develop uterine cancer than women who did not use these products.


Alexandra White, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study, said that they estimated that 1.64% of women who have never used hair relaxers would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but those who constantly use them, increase their risk by up to 4.05%.” “This double-digit rate is alarming. Uterine cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cancer, so it’s important to put this information into perspective.

The most frequent cancer of the female reproductive system, with 65,950 expected new cases in 2022, uterine cancer accounts for about 3% of all new cancer cases. Uterine cancer incidence rates have been rising in the US, especially among Black women, according to studies.

According to a study printed in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, about 60% of participants who admitted using straighteners in the previous year identified as Black women. Although the study did not discover a different relationship between uterine cancer incidence and race, the negative health effects may be more severe for Black women due to a higher prevalence of use.

The results are in line with earlier research that indicated women’s risk of developing hormone-related cancers can be raised by using straighteners.

Brands tested

The brands or ingredients of the women’s hair products were not recorded by the researchers. However, the authors of the paper point out that a number of chemicals that have been discovered in straighteners (including parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde) may be contributing to the elevated risk of uterine cancer seen.

Due to increased absorption through the scalp, which may be exacerbated by burns and lesions brought on by straighteners, chemical exposure from using hair products, especially straighteners, could be more concerning than from using other personal care products.

According to White, this epidemiologic study is the first to look at the link between using a straightener and uterine cancer. “More research is needed to confirm these findings in various populations, to determine whether hair products contribute to health disparities in uterine cancer, and to identify the precise chemicals that may be raising the risk of cancers in women,” the authors write.

Permanent hair dye and straighteners may raise the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, according to previous research by this team.

READ MORE: The risk of cancer rises when you use hair relaxers

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