For decades there’s been an ongoing issue in the black community about the physical features of black women who decide to wear weaves and use hair relaxers.
For those who advocate against it, they maintain that black women who choose to alter their appearance, do so from either psychological self-hate, or denouncing their heritage in favor of adopting the features of white women’s hair—which is considered easier to manage due to its texture.
Regardless, according to a 25-year study, researchers say statistics show that when black women apply relaxers that include lye-based products, there’s a strong link with breast cancer.
. “Using these data in our own study, my team of epidemiologists and I found that Black women who used hair products containing lye at least seven times a year for 15 or more years had an approximately 30 percent increased risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer compared with more infrequent users,” said Kimberly Bertrand an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University.
“Black women diagnosed with breast cancer are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than white women,” said Bertrand. “While systemic factors such as delays in diagnosis and poorer health care likely contribute to this disparity, they don’t seem to fully explain the survival gap between Black and white women.”
It has been well established that hair relaxers contain potent chemicals that can interfere with hormone functioning. “Black women are more likely than white women to develop highly aggressive breast cancers that have higher mortality rates, but researchers don’t really know why,” said Bertrand. She added, “This study fills a knowledge gap on the potential health effects of a consumer product popular among Black women. Given these findings, women may want to be cautious about the types of personal-care products they choose.”
If there’s good news, Bertrand said it was unclear if the link between breast cancer and relaxers included products on the market today. It is believed that black women who sporadically apply relaxers might not be at such a high risk for cancer.
“Thanks to 59,000 study participants in the Black Women’s Health Study, our research team continues to investigate risk factors for breast cancer and other diseases in Black women. By understanding what causes disease and learning about ways to lower risk, society can move one step closer toward eliminating health disparities,” said Bertrand.