Beauty products, like hair products, may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are “chemicals or a mixture of chemical compounds that interfere with normal hormone actions,” increasing cancer risk.1,2 Certain people have a greater chance of being exposed to these chemicals. Evidence shows who needs the most protection and what products are the culprits that can cause cancer.
Beauty products containing EDCs cause hormone-related cancers in girls and women, with black women having a more aggressive illness.1,3 The main hormone-related cancers are the uterine and breast. These cancers occur when hormones like progesterone and estrogen are not balanced.4
Uterine cancer is further divided into two categories; endometrial cancer, which develops in the inner lining of the uterus, and uterine sarcoma, which is found in the uterus’s muscle wall.5 Breast cancer also has subtypes that relate to how aggressive the tumor is and can spread.3
Where’s the Proof?
Of 50,884 women taking part in a study to identify a relationship between hair products like dyes, straighteners, and perms, with EDCs and cancer risk, 262 were diagnosed with uterine cancer, with 248 classified as endometrial cancer.1
Participants of the study were followed for over ten years. Uterine cancer cases were found in older patients, but these people also had a higher BMI and low physical activity.
Frequency of exposure to EDC beauty products was also an important caveat whether or not there was cancer development. A relationship with increasing use of EDC hair products over time increases the chances of cancer.1
Other studies involving 50, 543 women demonstrate exposure to straighteners or hair relaxers lowers hormone levels and elevates the risk of uterine and breast cancer.4,5 It is important to note that there was also only a small association between hair products and cancer, which means that the ingredients of the products matter.4
To reduce the risks associated with hair products and cancer, the ingredients to avoid or minimize are
- bisphenol A and other biphenyls,
- and formaldehyde.1,3
Given the widespread use of hair products and treatments, it’s essential to regulate products and enforce the regulations. Research is also crucial in helping improve products while keeping everyone healthy.
- Chang C-J, O’Brien KM, Keil AP, et al. Use of straighteners and other hair products and incident uterine cancer. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2022. doi:10.1093/jnci/djac165
- Zoeller RT, Brown TR, Doan LL, et al. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and public health protection: A statement of principles from the endocrine society. Academic.oup.com. https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/153/9/4097/2423830#. Published September 1, 2012. Accessed November 21, 2022.
- Coogan PF, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR, Cozier YC, Lenzy YM, Bertrand KA. Hair product use and breast cancer incidence in the Black Women’s Health Study. Carcinogenesis. 2021;42(7):924-930. https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgab041
- Garcia-Reyero N. The clandestine organs of the endocrine system. General and Comparative Endocrinology. 2018;257:264-271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2017.08.017
- Felix AS, Brinton LA. Cancer progress and priorities: Uterine cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2018;27(9):985-994. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.epi-18-0264