Chemical hair-straightening products may be putting women, especially Black women, at risk of getting uterine cancer risk, studies show.

The Study

For years, Black women have used hair-straightening products to style their hair and create different aesthetics. Despite its longstanding history in the world of beauty, researchers are now saying that using hair- straightening chemicals frequently may significantly multiply the risk of uterine cancer.

378 Cases

The study, which was released on October 17, 2022, includes data includes that profiled 33,497 U.S. women between the ages of 35 and 74 over the course of 11 years. Participants were profiled under Sister Study, an initiative led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH, that aims to discover the risk factors for breast cancer and other health conditions. During the study, 378 of the participants were diagnosed with uterine cancer.

“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, the leader of the study, and a member of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Safety (NIEHS).

What Is Uterine Cancer?

Uterine cancer is a rare type that begins in the uterus, and symptoms include irregular bleeding between periods. The condition accounts for approximately 3% of all new cancer cases but is the most common type of cancer of the female reproductive system. So far, about 65,950 estimated new cases have been recorded in 2022, and studies show that higher rates of uterine cancer occur in Black women. The study also showed that uterine cancer was greater in Black women because they were the demographic with a prevalent use of the chemical.

“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, Ph.D., an author on the new study and a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch.

What To Do?

Black women have learned to use various hair techniques to care for, and nurture their hair, and with the rising health risks such as these, it may be worth re-evaluating hair styling techniques, and pursue alternative methods.

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