Straightening products to straighten hair are responsible for cancer

Researchers invoke a “precautionary principle” to demand more regulations and public health policies (© Illustration Fabien Hisbacq – Actu Occitanie)

The straightening products used to straighten the hair pose an increased risk of Uterus cancer. This is confirmed by a large study by the American Institutes of Health published on Monday, October 17, 2022 in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute”.

Women who frequently use these products (more than four times a year) see their risk of developing uterine cancer more than double, according to the results of this work.

The researchers invoke a “precautionary principle” to call for more regulations and public health policies, although further studies are needed to further this investigation.

The study in question is based on data from nearly 33,500 American women, recruited between 2003 and 2009 and followed for almost 11 years. A total of 378 women developed uterine cancer.

Black women use these products more frequently

For women 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.

“Because black women are more likely to use these hair-straightening chemicals, the risk of uterine cancer is found to be higher in this population,” the researchers said. Several chemicals found in hair straighteners, such as formaldehyde, metals and parabens, could contribute to “accumulated risk”.

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.

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These 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.

Cancer of the body of the uterus, a hormone-dependent cancer

Uterine cancer accounts for about 3% of new cancer cases in the United States, with some 66,000 cases and 12,500 deaths estimated in 2022. Incidence rates for this cancer are on the rise in the United States, especially in black women.

Cancer of the body of the uterus also called endometrial cancer is different from cancer of the cervix. It is considered to be a hormone-dependent cancer, whereas cervical cancer more generally results from infection with the HPV virus (human papillomavirus infection) or from a benign lesion, called “condyloma”.

Endometrial cancer is the most frequent gynecological cancer with 7,000 new diagnoses every year in France.

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