Study shows increase in uterine cancer rates among women may correlate with hair straightening products
WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - There’s been an increase in uterine cancer rates, particularly in Black women. Now new research may have found a reason why.
Researchers at UW Health found women who reported frequent use of hair straightening products, which is defined as more than four times in the previous year, were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than women who didn’t. Almost 34,000 women ages 35 to 74 participated in the study and were followed for 11 years. During that time, 378 uterine cancer cases were diagnosed. Uterine cancer accounts for 3% of all cancer cases but is the most common cancer in women’s reproductive systems.
“We can’t control our age, we can’t control our genetics, but the products that we use every day and the products that we choose to use, or choose not to use, that we have control over. And so, if there’s some product or an ingredient in a product that is putting us at risk for uterine cancer, that’s something that we can make a choice about,” said Dr. Janelle Sobecki, Gynecologic Oncologist M.D, at UW Health.
60 percent of participants in the study self-identified as Black women. The researchers found no associations with uterine cancer and other hair care products such as hair dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms.
Doctors also want to remind you of the warning signs of the rare disease. Dr. Sobecki says that vaginal bleeding after menopause is the most common warning sign of uterine cancer and is not normal. Other signs include pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, and weight loss. Dr. Sobecki says the best thing to do in a situation where you’re not sure Is to visit your doctor for a checkup.
“I think that’s a really important way that women, you know, if they are experiencing, you know, signs and symptoms, getting to a health care provider as soon as possible is the best way for things to get diagnosed. And when uterine cancer is caught early, it oftentimes has really excellent outcomes,” said Sobecki.
More research is still needed to identify the specific chemicals that may be increasing the risk of cancers in women. Dr. Sobecki says she hopes the makers of these products will do internal research to help identify what is causing the risk.
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