October 20, 2022 – Clarissa Gazi gets relaxers containing the chemical sodium hydroxide, which are applied to her hair two to three times a year.
A recent study made headlines A possible link between hair straightening and uterine cancer won’t make it stop.
“This study is not enough to make me say I will stay away from this because [the researchers] They don’t prove that using relaxers causes cancer,” Ghazi says.
In fact, primary care physicians are unlikely to treat the increased risk of uterine cancer in women who frequently use the hair straighteners the study reported.
Among the regular users of hair straighteners – those who have used them more than four times a year – The researchers found that women were 2.55 times more likely to develop uterine cancer than those who had never used these products.
In the Recently published paper In this research, the authors say they found an 80% higher average risk of developing uterine cancer among women who had previously “straightened”, “straightened” or used “hair pressure products” in the 12 months prior to enrolling in their study.
This finding is “real, but it’s small,” says internist Douglas S. Baugh, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.
wowHe is among several primary care physicians interviewed for this story who expressed little concern about the implications of this research for their patients.
“Because we have hundreds of things that we’re supposed to discuss in our 20-minute clinic visits, that just won’t cut it,” says Bao.
While it’s nice to be able to answer questions a patient might have about this new research, the study doesn’t prove anything, he says.
Internist Alan Nelson, MD, an internist and endocrinologist and former special advisor to the CEO of the American College of Physicians, says that while the study has been well done, the number of actual cases of uterine cancer that have been found has been small.
One reason he doesn’t recommend discussing the study with patients is that no brands of hair products used to straighten hair were identified in the study.
Dr. Alexandra White, lead author of the study, said participants were simply asked, “In the past 12 months, how often have you or someone else straightened or relaxed your hair, or used hair compression products?”
The terms “straight,” “relaxed,” and “pressure products” are not defined, and “some women may have interpreted the term “squeeze products” to mean non-chemical products” such as flat irons, says White, who is also the chair of the ecology group. and cancer at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in an email.
Dermatologist Crystal Ajoh, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, tweeted the following advice in light of the new findings: “The overall risk of developing uterine cancer is very low so it’s important to remember that. For now, if you want to change your routine, don’t There is a downside to decreasing the frequency of hair straightening every 12 weeks or more, as this may reduce the risk.”
She also noted that “methods such as relaxation, silk ironing and keratin treatments should only be done by a professional, as this will reduce the potential for hair damage and scalp irritation.”
“I also encourage women to look for hair products that are free of parabens and phthalates (which are generally listed as ‘fragrance’) over products to reduce exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals.”
Not ready to go curly
Ghazi says she decided to stop using keratin hair straighteners years ago after learning that they were made with several added ingredients. This includes the chemical formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen, according to the American Cancer Society.
“People have been relaxing their hair for a very long time, and I feel more comfortable using it [a relaxer] To straighten my hair more than any other hair out there,” Ghazi says.
Janaki Ram, who has chemically straightened her hair multiple times, says the results didn’t make her worried that straightening specifically might cause her uterine cancer, but it’s a reminder that the chemicals in these products can harm her in some other products. road.
She says the results of the new study, her knowledge of the harms of straightening hair, and the long time it takes to receive a keratin treatment, will lead her to reduce the frequency of straightening her hair.
“Going forward, I’ll do it once a year instead of twice a year,” she says.
White, the study’s author, says in an interview that the takeaway for consumers is that women who reported frequent use of hair straighteners/straighteners and pressure products were more likely to develop uterine cancer compared to women who reported not using these products in the previous year.
“However, uterine cancer is relatively rare, so these increases in risk are small,” she says. “Less frequent use of these products was not strongly associated with risk, suggesting that reduced use may be an option to reduce adverse exposure. Black women were the most likely to use these products, and therefore these findings are more relevant for black women.”
“We estimated that 1.64% of women who have never used hair straighteners will develop endometrial cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, this risk rises to 4.05%,” says White in a statement.
“One of the original goals of the study was to better understand the environmental and genetic causes of breast cancer, but we’re also interested in studying ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and many other cancers and chronic diseases,” White says in an interview.