hair straightening products would increase the risk

A worker arranges hair products on the shelves of a hair salon in southwest London on December 1, 2020.

Women who use chemicals to straighten their hair have an increased risk of uterine cancer, suggests a study by the American Institutes of Health, NIH (National Institutes of Health), published on Monday, October 17 in Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Black women who use these products more would be more affected.

The study involved 33,497 American women aged 35 to 74 who participated in the “Sister” cohort, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). These were sisters of American women who had developed breast cancer included from 2003 to 2009 in the “Sister” program. Among them, 7.4% were black, 4.4% were Hispanic, 85.6% were white, and 2.5% belonged to other ethnic groups.

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This cohort was followed for nearly eleven years. During this period, 378 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed. The study finds a clear correlation: Women who used hair straightening products had an 80% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Those who frequently used these products – more than four times in the previous year – had a risk multiplied by 2.5. Thereby, “1.64% of women who had never used hair straightening products developed uterine cancer by age 70, compared to 4.05% of frequent users of these products “Summarizes Alexandra White, lead author of the study, in an NIH press release. A multiplication of risk “concerning”she assesses, even if this cancer persists “relatively rare”.

“Dose Effect”

“It’s a really credible study, especially because it shows a dose effect with a higher risk for the most frequent exposures”, says Suzette Delaloge, director of the personal cancer prevention program at the Gustave-Roussy Institute (Villejuif, Val-de-Marne). This study confirms the weight of known risk factors such as age, overweight or low level of physical activity.

Also read the archive (2017): “Black women know straightening is dangerous, but the pressure is too much”

The researchers also made adjustments to eliminate the effect of other risk factors: body mass index, physical activity level, menopause status, alcohol and tobacco consumption, the use of hormones for contraception or replacement therapy during menopause, level of education, occupation, place of residence, etc. In addition women who worked in hair salons or beauty salons were excluded from the analysis so that occupational exposures would not affect the results.

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