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Last updated: October 27, 2022

Chemical Hair-Straightening Products Linked To Increased Cancer Risk, Study Warns

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Increased Cancer Risk From Chemical Hair-Straighteners? Here’s What Researchers Found

A new study has found that frequent use* of chemical hair-straightening products may increase the risk of uterine cancer. When we saw this headline first surface the internet, we took a closer look at what researchers found.


The study followed nearly 34,000 U.S. women for over a decade and estimated that, “1.64 percent 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 4.05 percent,” according to Dr. Alexandra White, Lead Author and Head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


Understanding Risk Factors:

“Straighteners, in particular, have been found to include chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, cyclosiloxanes and metals and can release formaldehyde when heated,” Dr. White told Medical News Today.


Researchers found that the method of application is also an important consideration when assessing risk given that most products are applied for long periods of time. There’s more concern around chemical-straightening products than other personal care products because of increased absorption through the scalp, which is heightened by burns commonly caused by straighteners. 


Study author and research fellow Che-Jung Chang noted that these findings are especially important for Black women because they, “use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages,” (Suliman).


“We don’t want to panic people,” explained Dr. White. “One could make a decision to reduce this chemical exposure, but we also want to acknowledge that there is a lot of pressure on women, especially Black women, to have straight hair. It’s not an easy decision to not do this,” she said in a statement.


“To our knowledge, this is the first epidemiologic study that examined the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer,” Dr. White adds, emphasizing that more research is needed to confirm these findings. 


* Researchers defined “frequent use” as more than four times in the previous year (personal and/or professional).