A new study from the National Institutes of Health shows an alarming link between the use of chemical hair straighteners and a higher risk of uterine cancer. And for Black people, who have highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial or ethnic group in the United States for most cancers, according to the American Cancer Society, the findings are a cause for concern.
Of the over 33,000 women ages 35 - 74 who participated in the NIH’s Sister Study, researchers found that those who reported using chemical hair straighteners more than four times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than those who didn’t. The study did not find a link between uterine cancer and the use of hair dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms.
Although the study didn’t find any specific link to race, nearly 60 percent of the study participants who said they had used chemical straighteners in the previous year identified as Black women, according to Chandra Jackson, one of the co-authors of the study.
Researchers didn’t look into the specific brands of straighteners used by the study participants, but they noted that chemicals found in most straighteners, including parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde, are a possible link to the increased instances of uterine cancer.
Uterine cancer is a rare form of cancer, making up about 3 percent of all new cancer cases. But the link to chemical straighteners is cause for concern, according to Dr. Alexandra White, head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and one of the lead authors of the study. “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%,” she said.