Use of Hair Straighteners May Increase the Risk of Uterine Cancer — Donovan Hair Clinic
A new study concludes that the use hair straighteners slightly increases the risk to develop uterine cancer. Women who use them more often have an even greater risk.
It has been suggested in previous studies that use of certain hair products may be associated with an increased risk for cancer.
Hair products may contain hazardous chemicals that are known as “endocrine-disruptors” and some have cancer causing properties. Previous studies have found hair product use to be associated with a higher risk of hormone-sensitive cancers including breast and ovarian cancer;
Whether hair chemicals affect the risk of uterine cancer was not clear prior to the authors setting out to conduct the present study. Therefore, the authors examined associations between hair product use and uterine cancer among 33 947 participants aged 35-74 years.
Patients completed questionnaires, providing self-reported data on use of hair products in the prior 12 months, including hair dyes; straighteners, relaxers, or pressing products; and permanents or body waves.
Over an average of 10.9 years of follow-up, 378 uterine cancer cases were identified. Patients who reported using hair straightening products in the previous 12 months had a 1.8 fold increased risk of uterine cancer rates. The association was even stronger at 2.55 fold increased risk in those who reported that the used straighteners frequently (>4 times in the past 12 months) vs never use.
Use of other hair products, including dyes and permanents or body waves, was not associated with uterine cancer. Negligible associations were observed for other hair products used including permanent dyes, semipermanent dyes, temporary dyes, bleach, highlights, and hair permanents
Overall, these findings provided the first epidemiologic evidence of association between use of straightening products and uterine cancer. This was a well conducted study, It was a large study in a racially and ethnically diverse population.
The authors remind us that uterine cancer is one of the most common gynecologic cancers. Overall, incidence and mortality rates have increased in the United States in the past 2 decades, with more than 65 950 new cases and 12550 deaths expected in 2022. There are two primary types of uterine cancer: endometrial cancer, which is more common, and uterine sarcoma, which is rare.
It is known that exposure to excess estrogen and especially a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone have been identified as key risk factors for uterine cancer. This knowledge comes in part from the observation that women who use estrogen without progesterone have an increased risk of uterine cancer.
Thus, it has been hypothesized that synthetic estrogenic compounds such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) could contribute to uterine cancer risk because of their ability to alter hormonal actions.
Hair products are thought to provide EDC’s. They have been associated with breast cancer and ovarian cancer in some studies. The chemicals that are contributing to cancer is not clear. Parebens, phthalates are speculated by some but it’s really not clear. There may be more than EDC mechanisms causing cancer and the formaldehyde or organic benzene ring components may be responsible too.
The same authors previously observed a higher breast cancer incidence associated with use of hair products and a higher ovarian cancer incidence associated with adult use of straighteners. These findings are consistent with prior studies supporting a role of straighteners in increased risk for a variety of female, hormone-related cancers, Given the evidence now that straighteners are implicated in breast cancer, ovarian cancer and now uterine cancer, there appears to be solid evidence that straighteners affect hormone dependent cancer.
Brands or ingredients of hair products were not collected in this study; thus, the specific chemicals contributing to incident uterine cancer were not identified.
Although no differences in the hazard ratios between racial and ethnic groups were observed, the authors point out in their article that the adverse health effects associated with straightener use could be more consequential for African American and/or Black women because of the higher prevalence and frequency of hair product use, younger age of initiating use.
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