25-Yr-Lengthy Examine of Black Girls Hyperlinks Frequent Use of Lye-Primarily based Hair Relaxers to a Greater Danger of Breast Most cancers

Kimberly Bertrand, Boston College

The Analysis Transient is a brief take about fascinating educational work.

The large thought

Frequent and long-term use of lye-based hair straightening merchandise, or relaxers, might improve the chance of breast most cancers amongst Black girls, in contrast with extra average use.

Boston College’s Black Girls’s Well being Examine adopted 59,000 self-identified African American girls for over 25 years, sending questionnaires each two years on new diagnoses and elements which may affect their well being.

Utilizing these information in our personal examine, my crew of epidemiologists and I discovered that Black girls who used hair merchandise containing lye at the very least seven occasions a yr for 15 or extra years had an roughly 30% elevated threat of estrogen receptor optimistic breast most cancers in contrast with extra rare customers.

The minimal affiliation between hair relaxers (with or with out lye) and breast most cancers threat for average customers is mostly reassuring. However the elevated threat for the heaviest customers of lye-based hair merchandise – which included about 20% of examine members – is regarding.

Why it issues

There’s an pressing want to handle racial disparities in breast most cancers.

Black girls identified with breast most cancers are 40% extra prone to die from the illness than white girls. Whereas systemic elements resembling delays in analysis and poorer well being care probably contribute to this disparity, they do not appear to totally clarify the survival hole between Black and white girls.

Black girls are extra probably than white girls to develop extremely aggressive breast cancers which have greater mortality charges, however researchers do not actually know why. Nevertheless, scientists do know that chemical hair relaxers, extra typically utilized by Black girls, include doubtlessly dangerous chemical substances, together with attainable carcinogens and chemical substances often called endocrine disrupters, which might intrude with hormone perform and will increase breast most cancers threat. Within the Black Girls’s Well being Examine, 95% of girls reported previous or present use of those merchandise.

This examine fills a data hole on the potential well being results of a client product well-liked amongst Black girls. Given these findings, girls might wish to be cautious in regards to the varieties of personal-care merchandise they select.

What nonetheless isn’t recognized

As a result of the Black Girls’s Well being Examine didn’t have data on particular manufacturers of hair relaxers, my crew and I couldn’t decide which particular substances could be most related for breast most cancers threat. As well as, as a result of we requested about hair relaxer use earlier than 1997, the outcomes of this examine might not apply to merchandise in the marketplace as we speak.

Although our findings counsel a hyperlink between the usage of sure varieties of hair relaxers and breast most cancers, epidemiologic research resembling this one can not definitively show that hair relaxers trigger breast most cancers. Extra analysis is required, particularly on presently accessible merchandise.

What’s subsequent

Due to 59,000 examine members within the Black Girls’s Well being Examine, our analysis crew continues to research threat elements for breast most cancers and different illnesses in Black girls. By understanding what causes illness and studying about methods to decrease threat, society can transfer one step nearer towards eliminating well being disparities.

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Kimberly Bertrand, Assistant Professor of Medication, Boston College

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