Black women younger than 40 are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group, and it might be because of these products, said lead researcher Lindsey S. Treviño, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Health Equities and Department of Population Sciences at City of Hope.
“One reason for the higher risk of breast cancer may be exposure to harmful chemicals called endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hair and personal care products. These chemicals mimic the effects of hormones on the body,” she said in a press release.
“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,” Treviño said. “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.”
Trevino’s study tested the effects of parabens on breast cancer cells from both Black and white women. Her team found parabens caused the cancer cells from Black women to grow, an effect not seen in the samples from white women.
“These results provide new data that parabens also cause harmful effects in breast cancer cells from Black women,” Treviño said.
This isn’t the first time researchers have found toxic chemicals in women’s hair care products. A 2018 study found that in 18 products, “including hot oil treatments, leave-in conditioners and hair relaxers, a total of 45 endocrine disrupters were found, with each product containing from four to 30 of the target chemicals. Eleven of the products contained seven chemicals prohibited in the European Union or regulated under California’s Proposition 65, the 1986 act enacted to help Californians protect themselves from exposure to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other harm.”
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