Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has discovered that chemicals found in some products used to straighten hair could increase a woman's risk of developing uterine cancer. A study was performed over the course of 11 years with over 30,000 women between the ages of 35-74. Throughout this time, 378 women were diagnosed with uterine cancer. Women who use these products occasionally (less than 4 times per year) have a 1.64% risk, which is statistically insignificant. Those that use the products more than 4 times per year have about a 4.05% risk of developing this disease by the age of 70. Upon further exploration, surprisingly, there were no associations found between uterine cancer and other popular hair techniques (highlighters, hair dyes, perms, and bleaches). This was a particularly interesting finding because there is typically a higher risk for other cancers associated with permanent dye use.
In the study, about 60% of the women diagnosed with uterine cancer self-identified as Black. It is hypothesized that this is due to the higher product use, so their exposure to such chemicals would be more prominent. While our bodies have mechanisms to metabolize and eliminate these chemicals, regular exposure to them can have dangerous consequences to one’s health. The location of absorption plays a big part in this situation, the scalp, where most chemicals and hair straighteners are applied, can absorb more chemicals than other parts of the body. These chemicals can do many things to the body but one of the most concerning is the alterations done in the genetic coding of cells which can result in cancerous growth. The article goes further into detail about the chemical ingredients in the products causing disruptions, some of which have been associated with cancer and disturb endocrine compounds affecting body functions, fertility, and puberty.
This study on how chemicals found in hair products could lead to uterine cancer is not meant to scare women to stop using straighteners. Rather, to educate and caution against the overuse of these products. There is still further research needed on the relationship of the products and their impact on different races, nevertheless, this article was definitely an eye-opener.