Hair Relaxers and Cancer Risk

Hair Relaxers and Cancer Risk

New evidence is showing a link between hair straightening chemicals and certain reproductive cancers. There is now a push to understand relaxers’ impact on Black women’s health. A study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences was published. It was called The Sister Study and was a decades long project that initially analyzed environmental and genetic causes of breast cancer. There was an offshoot of the study because researchers found that participants of the study who used straighteners were mostly Black women and there was evidence of association between the use of straightening chemicals and uterine cancer.

More than 2,000 women have joined a federal lawsuit as well as other class action lawsuits suing major cosmetic brands. The lawsuits claim that the negative health impacts of the hair straightening chemicals contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The study was not meant to look at uterine cancer risk. It was meant to look at high risk populations and genetic and environmental risks for developing breast cancer. Women were chosen to be in the study because they had a first degree relative with breast cancer- none of them had breast cancer going into it.

The study was large, but there were only 7.4 percent of participants that identified as African American or Black. A link was found between the use of hair straighteners at least four times a year and the development of uterine cancer. Uterine cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States every year, which is around 66,000 cases. Women who never used hair straighteners had a 1.64 percent risk of developing uterine cancer, while the risk was 4.05 percent for people who used the straighteners. Black women in general have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer, but Black women who used hair straightening chemicals almost double their risk.

A doctor believes it is inaccurate to say that chemical hair straighteners or relaxers directly cause cancer, but the frequency with which someone uses them might be the cause of the cancer. This could lead to more research on chemical hair straighteners and other environmental impacts on Black women’s health. The study does not have enough information to conclude that chemical relaxers should not be used, but it is best to decrease overall use of the products. Also be aware of family history of breast or uterine cancer and make decisions based on this.

Were you exposed to harmful chemicals and now have cancer? Contact us today to see if you could be entitled to compensation. Call 412-471-3980 or fil out our contact form and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Shaylah Brown, “Chemical hair straighteners and the impact on Black women’s health” TribLive (February 5, 2024). [Link]

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