Oct. 20, 2022 – Clarissa Ghazi will get lye relaxers, which comprise the chemical sodium hydroxide, utilized to her hair two to 3 instances a yr.

A latest examine that made headlines over a possible hyperlink between hair straighteners and uterine most cancers shouldn’t be going to make her cease. 

“This examine shouldn’t be sufficient to trigger me to say I will steer clear of this as a result of [the researchers] don’t show that utilizing relaxers causes most cancers,” Ghazi says.

Certainly, main care docs are unlikely to handle the elevated danger of uterine most cancers in girls who ceaselessly use hair straighteners that the examine reported. 

Amongst frequent customers of hair straighteners — which means those that used them greater than 4 instances a yr — the researchers discovered that girls have been 2.55 instances extra prone to be identified with uterine most cancers than those that by no means used these merchandise.

Within the just lately revealed paper on this analysis, the authors say that they discovered an 80% larger adjusted danger of uterine most cancers amongst girls who had ever “straightened,” “relaxed,” or used “hair urgent merchandise” within the 12 months earlier than enrolling of their examine.

This discovering is “actual, however small,” says internist Douglas S. Paauw, MD, professor of drugs on the College of Washington in Seattle. 

Paauwis amongst a number of main care docs interviewed for this story who expressed little concern in regards to the implications of this analysis for his or her sufferers. 

“Since we now have tons of of issues we’re supposed to debate at our 20-minute clinic visits, this might not make the reduce,” Paauw says. 

Whereas it’s good to have the ability to reply questions a affected person may ask about this new analysis, the examine doesn’t show something, he says.

Internist Alan Nelson, MD, an internist-endocrinologist and former particular advisor to the CEO of the American School of Physicians, says whereas the examine is nicely finished, the variety of precise instances of uterine most cancers discovered have been small.

One of many causes he wouldn’t suggest discussing the examine with sufferers is that the manufacturers of hair merchandise used to straighten hair within the examine weren’t recognized. 

Alexandra White, PhD, lead writer of the examine, mentioned members have been merely requested, “Up to now 12 months, how ceaselessly have you ever or another person straightened or relaxed your hair, or used hair urgent merchandise?” 

The phrases “straightened,” “relaxed,” and “hair urgent merchandise” weren’t outlined, and “some girls might have interpreted the time period ‘urgent merchandise’ to imply non-chemical merchandise” comparable to flat irons, says White, who can be head of the Nationwide Institute of Environmental Well being Sciences’ Surroundings and Most cancers Epidemiology group, in an e-mail.

Dermatologist Crystal Aguh, MD, affiliate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Faculty of Drugs, tweeted the next recommendation in gentle of the brand new findings: “The general danger of uterine most cancers is sort of low so it is necessary to keep in mind that. For now, if you wish to change your routine, there isn’t any draw back to lowering your frequency of hair straightening to each 12 weeks or extra, as which will reduce your danger.”

She additionally famous that “types like relaxer, silk urgent and keratin therapies ought to solely be finished by knowledgeable, as this may lower the chance of hair harm and scalp irritation.”

“I additionally encourage girls to search for hair merchandise freed from parabens and phthalates (that are generically listed as “perfume”) on merchandise to attenuate publicity to hormone disrupting chemical substances.”

Not Able to Go Curly

Ghazi says she determined to cease utilizing keratin straighteners years in the past after she discovered they’re made with a number of added components. That features the chemical formaldehyde, a identified carcinogen, in accordance with the American Most cancers Society.

“Folks have been stress-free their hair for a really very long time, and I really feel extra snug utilizing [a relaxer] to straighten my hair than any of the others on the market,” Ghazi says.

Janaki Ram, who has had her hair chemically straightened a number of instances, says the findings haven’t made her nervous that straightening will trigger her to get uterine most cancers particularly, however that they’re a reminder that the chemical substances in these merchandise may hurt her in another method.

She says the brand new examine findings, her data of the harm straightening causes to hair, and the prolonged period of time receiving a keratin therapy takes will lead her to scale back the frequency with which she will get her straightened.

“Going ahead, I’ll have this finished annually as an alternative of twice a yr,” she says.  

White, the writer of the examine, says in an interview that the takeaway for customers is that girls who reported frequent use of hair straighteners/relaxers and urgent merchandise have been over twice as prone to go on to develop uterine most cancers in comparison with girls who reported no use of those merchandise within the earlier yr. 

“Nonetheless, uterine most cancers is comparatively uncommon, so these will increase in dangers are small,” she says. “Much less frequent use of those merchandise was not as strongly related to danger, suggesting that lowering use could also be an possibility to scale back dangerous publicity. Black girls have been essentially the most frequent customers of those merchandise and subsequently these findings are extra related for Black girls.”

“We estimated that 1.64% of girls who by no means used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine most cancers by the age of 70; however for frequent customers, that danger goes as much as 4.05%,” White says in an announcement.

 “One of many unique goals of the examine was to raised perceive the environmental and genetic causes of breast most cancers, however we’re additionally excited by learning ovarian most cancers, uterine most cancers, and lots of different cancers and continual ailments,” White says in an interview. 

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