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Straightening products increase the risk of developing uterine cancer, according to an American study.
HEALTH – To straighten the hair, a practice which is not without risk. According to a large study by the American Institutes of Health published 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. uterus. 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 almost 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 by their 70s is 1.64%, compared to 4.05% for frequent users, detailed in a report. press release Alexandra White, lead author of the study.
“Because black women use straightening or hair straightening products more frequently and tend to start younger (…), these results could be particularly interesting for them”, underlined 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 declared themselves to be black.
Uterine cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer. It accounts for about 3% of new cancer cases in the United States, with some 66,000 cases and 12,500 deaths in 2022. But incidence rates for this cancer are rising 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 endocrine disruptors
The researchers did not collect information on the specific products and brands used. But they note that several chemicals could contribute to the increase in the risk of cancer: parabens, bisphenol A, metals or even formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde, commonly known as formalin, can be used in particular for so-called Brazilian smoothing – at limited rates in certain countries, including France. It is classified as a carcinogen. Another potential mode of action could be the 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 items contain chemicals that could act like estrogen in the body”she added.
Hair straightening products could promote the absorption of chemicals via lesions or burns caused to the scalp, or by the joint use of straightening irons whose heat breaks down the chemicals.
Previous work carried out by the researcher had already raised a link between relaxer products and an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. During the study, no similar association between uterine cancer and other techniques such as dyes, bleaches or permanents was observed.
In a comment published simultaneously, experts judged that it was “time to intervene”. Changes “regarding personal care products are likely required at many levels”they wrote, in particular to “challenging racialized beauty standards”and at “lack of transparency on chemicals” used.
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