Study: Chemical hair straightener may increase risk of uterine cancer

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 11:25 AM CDT
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(CNN) - It’s a popular way to straighten hair, but a new study said chemicals in relaxers may increase the risk of uterine cancer over time.

“These products can contain a lot of different chemicals of concern,” Alexandra White said.

White is the lead author of a new National Institutes of Health study, which followed more than 33,000 women for nearly 11 years.

“Women who reported using chemical straighteners or relaxers had about a two-fold higher risk of going on to develop uterine cancer,” White said.

White said that estimate is for those who reported using the products more than four times in the previous year.

A majority of those who reported using straightener in the study are Black women.

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be nearly 66,000 new uterine cancer cases in the U.S., and mortality rates from the disease are rising, particularly among Black women.

“These chemicals are placed on your scalp, and they can be absorbed into your bloodstream. And then they circulate throughout your body,” White said.

In another study, the same researchers found that permanent hair dye and straighteners may also increase breast and ovarian cancer risk.

“A number of factors can influence a woman’s risk to go on and develop cancer,” White said. “But this is one potential source of exposure to chemicals and potentially carcinogens that women could be aware of and make choices to not use these products.”

Other hair products women in the study reported using were hair dyes, bleach, highlights and perms, but the researchers found no link to uterine cancer risk with those products.