Study: Toxic Chemical In Hair Products For Black Women Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Study: Toxic Chemical In Hair Products For Black Women Increases Breast Cancer Risk

A new study says hair and beauty products marketed to Black women contain a class of toxic chemicals that is not only linked to an increased breast cancer risk but fuels the spread of cancer cells in Black women when compared to white women.

According to Business Insider,  the study, which will be presented Monday at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Atlanta, analyzed the effect parabens have on breast cancer cells in both Black and white women. The analysis determined parabens increased the growth of breast cancer cells in Black women but did not affect breast cancer cells in white women at the same rate.

Parabens are a group of chemicals that keep mold and bacteria from growing on beauty products, prolonging their shelf lives. However, in humans, parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which can lead to dangerous cell growth.

“Black women are more likely to buy and use hair products with these types of chemicals, but we do not have a lot of data about how parabens may increase breast cancer risk in Black women,” Lindsey S. Treviño, the study’s lead researcher, said in a press release.

“This is because Black women have not been picked to take part in most research studies looking at this link. Also, studies to test this link have only used breast cancer cell lines from white women,” Treviño added. 

The study was conducted by the Bench to Community Initiative, which brings together scientists, community activists, breast cancer survivors, and hair stylists to study the link between chemicals in Black hair care products, and breast cancer.

Black women, in general, are more affected by breast cancer. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, they’re 41% more likely to die from breast cancer and those under 50 are twice as likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Boston University’s Black Women’s Health Study which tracks 59,000 women who enrolled in the study in 1995, did not find a link between moderate use of hair relaxers and a higher risk of breast cancer but did find evidence that “heavy use of lye-containing hair relaxers” may be associated with a more aggressive form of breast cancer.

“These results provide new data that parabens also cause harmful effects in breast cancer cells from Black women,” Treviño said in the release.

According to Afro Lovely, the global Black hair care market was estimated at $2.5 billion in 2020. Black consumers spent $54.4 million on ethnic hair and beauty products in 2018, making up 85.7% of total spending in the category.