University Researchers Find No Link Between the Use of Hair Relaxers and the Incidence of Breast Cancer in Black Women

Numerous studies have shown breast cancer is more common among African-American women below the age of 40 compared to white women of the same age. And black women are more likely than white women to die from the disease. The increased risk has not been fully explained by genetic or environmental factors.

Researchers at Boston University and the Howard University Cancer Center recently completed a study to determine if the increased use of chemicals in hair relaxers commonly used by African-American women could explain the differences in breast cancer rates.

Chemicals in hair relaxers can enter the body through lesions or small cuts in the scalp. And these products are not closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration, so black women may come in contact with potentially harmful substances.

But the research conducted over a 20-year period found that black women who use hair relaxers frequently (seven or more times a year) are no more likely to develop breast cancer than other black women. Also, black women who used hair relaxers over a long period were not any more likely to develop breast cancer than other black women.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, was published in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.