Hair Straightening Products Linked to Uterine Cancer, Disproportionately Affecting BIPOC Women

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Oct. 19 2022, Updated 3:05 p.m. ET

Hair Straighteners
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Evidently, your hair products might be making you sick.

While previous studies showed a potential connection between certain products and breast and ovarian cancers, a new study shows a link between hair straightening products and uterine cancer. The link was not made to other hair products test subjects reported using, such as dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms; but sadly, this will disproportionately affect BIPOC populations, who most frequently use hair-straightening chemical products.

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Even though developing uterine cancer as a result of using these products is indeed rare, the risk is worryingly doubled for those who regularly use said products.

“In this study, women with frequent use in the past year had an over two-fold higher risk of uterine cancer,” Chandra Jackson, an author of the study and researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, stated as per CNN.

“More research is needed to confirm these findings in different populations, to determine if hair products contribute to health disparities in uterine cancer, and to identify the specific chemicals that may be increasing the risk of cancers in [people with a uterus],” Alexandra White, who was the lead author on the study, also stated in the press release.

That said, it's important to know the risks associated with these types of products.

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Hair Straightening Chemicals
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People who use hair straightening products are reportedly two times more likely to develop uterine cancer.

A new study, which was published Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week, showed that people who use hair straightening products and relaxers are more prone to developing uterine cancer than those who don't. The study, which was led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), examined 33,497 women in the U.S., between 35 and 74 years old, over the course of 11 years.

In that amount of time, 378 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed.

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“We estimated that 1.64 percent 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 percent,” White stated in the 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 study did not specifically identify any specific brands the subjects had been using.

However, parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde, which are often found in straighteners, are likely the culprit. When applied to the scalp, they are absorbed and exacerbated by straightener-induced burns.

And as previously mentioned, this is disproportionately affecting people of color.

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Uterine Cancer
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Sadly, this will disproportionately affect the BIPOC community.

While these types of products pose a risk to anyone who uses them, they are most often used to relax textured, curly hair — therefore, per the release, Black and Latina folk are most at risk.

“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,” co-author and NIEHS Epidemiology research fellow, Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., stated in the study.

More research is to be done to identify the specific chemicals affecting those who use these hair products, but it's something to be aware of for the time being.

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