By AFRO Staff
A new study published in the July edition of Carcinogenesis posits a plausible link between the heavy use of lye-based hair relaxers or straighteners and the incidence of cancer among African-American women.
The Boston University researchers analyzed data from the school’s Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a compendium of health information from 59,000 African-American women—ages 21 to 69 and living across the United States—collected from the past 25 years.
Among the participants, 5 percent never used straighteners, 5 percent were light users, 70 percent were moderate users, and 20 percent were heavy users. The latter was considered to be women who used hair products containing lye at least seven times a year for 15 or more years.
The researchers then compared the use of relaxers among the 2,311 women who reported experiencing cancer.
“Overall, our results are generally reassuring: we found no clear evidence that hair relaxer use is associated with breast cancer risk for most women,” said Kimberly Bertrand, a Boston University School of Medicine assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist at the BU Slone Epidemiology Center. “However, there was some evidence the heaviest users of lye-containing products…had about a 30 percent increased risk of estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer.”
Still, while the possible connection was there, researchers concluded there was no direct link between relaxer use and cancer.
“Consistent results from several studies are needed before it can be concluded that use of certain hair relaxers impacts breast cancer development,” Bertrand said.
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