Experts find it doubles risk of uterine cancer
| THE INDEPENDENT | A new study from the National Institutes of Health has found that women who use hair straightening products are twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as those who do not.
Researchers believe Black women may be at increased risk due to a higher usage rate of hair straightening products.
Uterine cancer, also called endometrial cancer, is the sixth most commonly occurring cancer for women around the world, with more than 417,000 cases reported in 2020.
Research shows the rate of endometrial cancer increased globally from 1990 to 2019.
This study recently appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
What is uterine cancer?
Uterine cancer occurs in the uterus also called a womb. The most common type of uterine cancer, known as endometrial cancer, happens in the inner lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. Uterine cancer can also take place in the muscle wall of the uterus called the myometrium.
Symptoms of uterine cancer include: unusual bleeding between menstrual cycles or after menopause, pelvic pain, and pain during urination, fatigue, nausea, a feeling of heaviness in the pelvic area, and weight loss.
According to Dr. Alexandra White, head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group — a part of the NIH — and lead author of this study, hair products such as dye and chemical straighteners contain a number of different chemicals that may act as carcinogens or endocrine disruptors, and thus may be important for cancer risk.
“Straighteners in particular have been found to include chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, cyclosiloxanes, (and) metals, and can release formaldehyde when heated,” she told Medical News Today.
“Previous research has suggested that hair dye and chemical straighteners are related to other hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but no previous study has considered how they are related to uterine cancer risk,” said Dr. White.
For this study, Dr. White and her team studied data from over 33,000 women in the United States aged 35–74 years participating in the Sister Study. The NIEHS conducts the Sister Study in an effort to identify breast cancer risk factors and other health issues.
Researchers reported not finding any increased risk for uterine cancer for women using other hair care products such as hair dyes, highlighting products, bleach, or perming products.
Increased risk for Black women
According to researchers, 60% of participants who used hair straightening products self-identified as Black women. Although scientists did not find a link between chemical hair straightener use, uterine cancer diagnosis, and race, the research team reported Black women may be at increased risk due to higher use of chemical hair straighteners.
“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,” states Dr. Che-Jung Chang, a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch and member of the study’s research team.
A study from June 2022 found that incidents of uterine cancer were on the rise among non-Hispanic Black women. This same study also found that Black women had more than double the mortality rate compared to other racial and ethnic groups.