Study links cancer risks to Black women hair care products
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On Monday, scientists at the Journal of the National Cancer Institute released new details between using certain hair straightening products, such as chemical relaxers and pressing products, and an increased risk of cancer in women.

Ongoing research previously suggested that hair straightening chemicals are associated with an increased risk of certain hormone-related cancers, including breast and ovarian cancers, and now, a new study links use of hair straightening products with an increased risk of uterine cancer. Black women may be more affected due to higher use of the products, the researchers noted.

Calls have already been made to stop selling relaxers

The study estimates that among women who did not use hair-straightening chemical products in the past 12 months, 1.6% developed uterine cancer by age 70, but about 4% of the women who frequently use such hair-straightening products developed uterine cancer by age 70.


That finding “also communicates that uterine cancer is indeed rare. However, the doubling of risk does lead to some concern,” said Chandra Jackson, an author of the study and researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“In this study, women with frequent use in the past year had an over two-fold higher risk of uterine cancer,” Jackson said. Frequent use was defined as more than four times in the previous year.

The new study includes data on nearly 34,000 women in the United States, ages 35 to 74, who completed questionnaires about their use of certain hair products, including perms, dyes, relaxers and straighteners. The researchers, from the National Institutes of Health, also tracked the incidence of cancer diagnoses within the study group.



“I couldn’t figure out why these materials were even allowed to be used in this application, especially given the wide breadth of use of hair extensions in the Black community,” May says. “No one seemed to be paying attention to what could be happening beneath the surface.”

“I started the company back in 2019, after my own experience with hair extensions — having really negative scalp irritation and breaking out and wanting to know more about why this was happening to me — why it was common with hair extensions — and didn’t find anything on the market that was readily available,” Ciara Imani May told Green Matters.

Black hair is big business

Over the past decade, Americans have spent more than $500 billion on beauty products. Last year alone, the US beauty industry was worth $60 billion, and with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5 percent, it’s expected to reach $73 billion by 2025.

In 2021, Black Americans spent $6.6 billion on beauty which is 11.1 percent of the total US beauty market.

To understand more about Black representation in the beauty industry, check out McKinsley Quarterly here.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...

2 replies on “Study links cancer risks to Black women hair care products”

  1. Dear Mr. Walker,
    This article is egregiously misleading. One section is devoted to discussing the use of synthetic-based braids that may be made of PVC, purportedly “one of the most environmentally harmful plastics.” I’m confused as to why the article discusses PVC at all. The scientific study that is the basis of this article found an association with hair straightening chemicals, specifically straighteners, relaxers, or pressing products (see Tables 2-4 in study report). Synthetic braids were not evaluated in the study and PVC is not even mentioned once.

    The growing level of straight up disinformation in many public articles is alarming.

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