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chemical hair straightening uterine cancer

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New research released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlights that women who use chemical hair straightening products are at higher risk for uterine cancer than those who don’t. 

Researchers collected data for the Sister Study from 33,497 female participants aged 35-74 for almost 11 years.

During the data collection, 378 participants were diagnosed with uterine cancer cases.

Data showed that women who frequently used hair straightening products — “more than four times in the previous year” — were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to those who didn’t use those products.

“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, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study.

“This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context – uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”

The Sister Study was led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of NIH.

Notably, “approximately 60% of the participants who reported using straighteners in the previous year were self-identified Black women.”


The link between chemical hair straightening and uterine cancer for Black women.

While uterine cancer only accounts for about three percent of all new cancer cases, it is the most common type of cancer diagnosed related to the female reproductive system.

In addition, uterine cancer cases in Black women in the United States have increased, according to separate research. 

“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,” noted Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., an author of the new study and a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch.

Researchers highlighted that several chemicals often found in straighteners, such as parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde, “could be contributing to the increased uterine cancer risk observed.”

Chemical exposure from hair straighteners is possibly “more concerning” than other personal care products because of its increased absorption through the scalp, “which may be exacerbated by burns and lesions caused by straighteners.”

“Researchers found no associations with uterine cancer for other hair products that the women reported using, including hair dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms,” according to the source.


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