Hair straightening products linked to higher uterine cancer risk, study shows

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rates for uterine cancer are rising in the United States for Black and Hispanic women, and a new study shows that hair straightening products could play a role in the number of cases.

Uterine cancer is affecting women of color at disproportionate rates. Dr. Martin Martino, the medical director of Ascencion Medical Group St. Vincent’s Gynecology and Oncology, said Black and Hispanic women over the age of 50 are most at risk.

“It is the most common cancer that we see, and if one were to ask why, it’s a cancer that’s driven by hormones,” Martino said.

Research shows that Black women are more likely to have more aggressive forms of the cancer.

A new study by the National Institutes of Health is linking hair straightening products — including hair relaxers commonly used by Black women — to a higher risk of uterine cancer.

This week, a $75,000 lawsuit was filed against hair company L’Oréal on behalf of a Black woman from Missouri who claims she used L’Oréal’s chemical straightening product for 22 years. According to the lawsuit, she was diagnosed in 2018 and says she has no family history of cancer.

“I’m 32 years old right now, and I’m still filling that void of not being able to bear my own child,” said Jenny Mitchell.

Martino said there are other factors that can lead to uterine cancer.

“Other risk factors could be hereditary, and that is something to speak to your doctor about. But then to your point, we’ve been through a lot during COVID and not going to see your doctor regularly and having an exam, having a pelvic exam,” Martino said. “Even if you’re in your 40s or late 30s, this is still a cancer that you could see, unfortunately, too common.”

News4JAX asked Martino what symptoms people should look out for.

“If you’re at home and you’re having spotting, irregular periods, feeling pressure, then that’s something to raise the yellow flag,” Martino said.

Other symptoms can include pain during sexual intercourse, heavy menstruation, pain in the pelvic area and weight loss.

Early detection is key to lowering your risk.

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.