Tuesday, October 18, 2022

National study finds frequent use of hair straighteners may pose risk for uterine cancer

Can frequent use of hair straighteners pose a small risk for uterine cancer?

According to a story by Roni Caryn Rabin in today's editions of The New York Times, the answer is yes. 

Rabin's article says the risk is higher than for women who have never used the products.

The study, which was published yesterday in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, followed nearly 34,000 U.S. women for more than a decade.

Hair straightener use has previously been tied in studies to a higher risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

"While the increased risk [for uterine cancer] was found among women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds," the story continues, "Black women might be disproportionately affected: Sixty percent of participants who reported using hair straighteners self-identified as Black women, according to the study."

A March report from an expert panel indicated that over all Black women die of uterine cancer at twice the rate that White women do.

Frequent use is defined as more than four times in the previous year, and includes "any personal use, whether women applied products themselves or had the straighteners applied by others."

Alexandra White, PhD
Alexandra White, PhD head of the environmental and cancer epidemiology group of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (HIEHS) and the study's lead author, is quoted as saying 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."

Researchers have cautioned that the study's findings need to be confirmed by other studies.

The uterine cancer study, Rabin's piece says, shows that some chemicals found in straighteners — such as parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde — could week "play a role in the increased" risk.

Uterine cancer, the story maintains, "is increasing rapidly. The number of cases diagnosed each year has rises to 65,950 this year from 39,000 just 15 years ago." 

When detected early, overall survival rates are high.

More information about risk factors, including those for minority groups, can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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