The use of hair-straightening chemicals could be linked to an increased risk of uterine cancer in women, according to new research.

The team which conducted the research noted that other hair products, such as dye, bleach, highlights and perms, do not show the same risk.

Uterine cancer represents about three percent of all new cancer diagnoses. It is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, and researchers say there were approximately 65,950 new cases in 2022. Cases of the disease have been rising in the U.S. — especially among black women.

The results come from an analysis of 33,497 women throughout the United States who were taking part in a large scale-study called the Sister Study. All of these participants were between the ages of 35 and 47 and scientists kept track of their health for roughly 11 years. During that time, there were 378 cases of uterine cancer.

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Hair-straightening chemicals: risk of uterine cancer

The team discovered that women who reported using hair-straightening chemicals frequently (at least four times per year) saw their cancer risk more than double compared to women who did not use those chemicals.

“We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” says lead author Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, in a media release.

“This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context – uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”

The study authors believe hair-straightening chemicals may be having these effects because they contain a wide variety of harmful chemicals, including parabens, BPA, heavy metals and formaldehyde.

Some of these chemicals have been the subject of increased scrutiny in recent weeks due to the Tucker Carlson documentary, The End of Men, which focuses on rising infertility and falling testosterone rates among men in the US.

“To our knowledge this is the first epidemiologic study that examined the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer,” White concludes. “More research is needed to confirm these findings in different populations, to determine if hair products contribute to health disparities in uterine cancer, and to identify the specific chemicals that may be increasing the risk of cancers in women.”

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