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Straightening products increase the risk of developing uterine cancer, an American study shows.
HEALTH – Straightening the hair, a practice which is not without risk. According to a major study by the American Institutes of Health published on Monday, October 17 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, hair straightening products pose an increased risk of cancer of the uterus – not to be confused with cancer of the cervix. Products mainly used by black women. The risk of developing uterine cancer more than doubles for those who use it frequently – more than four times a year.
The study is based on data from nearly 33,500 American women, recruited between 2003 and 2009 and followed for nearly eleven years. A total of 378 women developed uterine cancer. For those who have never used a hair straightening product, the risk of developing uterine cancer in the 70s is 1.64% compared to 4.05% for frequent users, described in a report press release Alexandra White, lead author of the study.
“Because black women use straightening or straightening products more frequently and tend to start younger (…), these results may be of particular interest to them.”, emphasized Che-Jung Chang, co-author of this work. Among those surveyed, approximately 60% of women who said they used hair straightening products during the year stated that they were black.
Uterine cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer. It accounts for about 3% of new cancer cases in the United States, with about 66,000 cases and 12,500 deaths in 2022. But the incidence of this cancer is increasing in the United States, especially among black women. In metropolitan France, according to Santé Publique France, the estimated number of new cases of uterine cancer was 8,224 and the estimated number of deaths was 2,415 for the year 2018.
Presence of hormone-disrupting substances
The researchers did not collect information about the specific products and brands used. But they note that several chemicals can contribute to increasing the risk of cancer: parabens, bisphenol A, metals or even formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde, commonly known as formaldehyde, can be used in particular for so-called Brazilian leveling – at limited prices in certain countries, including France. It is classified as a carcinogen. Another potential mode of action could be disruption of hormonal mechanisms.
“We know that these smoothing products contain many chemicals, including endocrine disruptors, and they can be expected to have an impact on hormone-dependent cancers”explained to AFP Alexandra White. “The concern is that these products contain chemicals that can act like estrogen in the body”she added.
Hair straightening products can promote the absorption of chemicals via lesions or burns caused by the scalp or by joint use of straighteners, the heat of which breaks down the chemicals.
Previous work by the researcher had already raised a link between relaxing products and an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. During the study, no similar association was observed between uterine cancer and other techniques such as dyes, bleaches or perms.
In a commentary published simultaneously, experts judged that it was “time to intervene”. Changes “in terms of personal care, there is probably a need for products on many levels”they wrote, especially to “challenging race-based beauty standards”and at “lack of transparency about chemicals” Used.
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