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A new study by City of Hope and presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual conference found parabens in beauty products marketed to Black women can increase abnormal growth in breast cancer cells.

The organization presented the new research during its annual meeting in Atlanta on June 13. It highlighted that parabens are a class of hormone-disrupting chemicals that “uniquely fuel” the spread of cancer cells in Black women compared to their white counterparts, to Insider reports.

The hormone disruptors do this in the body by mimicking estrogen which can result in abnormal cancer cell growth.

The source further detailed that the new research claims parabens “increased the expression of genes linked to breast cancer in both Black and white women.”

The disruptors also increased Black breast cancer cell lines, but not white breast cancer cell lines.

Companies generally place parabens in beauty and hair products as a preservative to combat mold and bacteria growth.

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“Black women are more likely to buy and use hair products with these types of chemicals, but we do not have a lot of data about how parabens may increase breast cancer risk in Black women,” said Lindsey S. Treviño, the study’s lead researcher. “This is because Black women have not been picked to take part in most research studies looking at this link. Also, studies to test this link have only used breast cancer cell lines from white women.”

The new study is a part of a community-led research project called the Bench to Community Initiative. It studies the links between breast cancer and harmful chemicals in Black haircare products.

The project’s members include scientists, breast cancer survivors, hairstylists, and community activists. 

The mortality rate for Black women diagnosed with breast cancer is over 40% higher than for white women. Also, the population’s breast cancer mortality rate is the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.

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