Study Shows Harmful Chemical in Black Women’s Hair Products Increases Breast Cancer Risk



A recent study indicates that Black women using hair and beauty products are at a high risk of developing breast cancer. These hair and beauty products explicitly marketed to Black women are said to contain a dangerous class of toxic chemicals that has been linked to an increase in breast cancer risk. Additionally, the chemicals fuel the spread of cancer cells more in Black women than in white women.


The study will be presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Atlanta on Monday. The study analyzed the effects of parabens on Black women’s breast cancer cells, according to Business Insider. The same analysis was done on white women’s breast cancer cells. The experiment concluded that parabens increase the growth of breast cancer cells in Black women. Although it also increases the growth of cancer cells in White women, the rate is slower compared to Black women.

What are parabens? These are a group of chemicals that are used in beauty products to keep mold and bacteria from growing on them, so as to prolong their shelf lives. But parabens are harmful in humans because the chemicals can mimic the hormone estrogen, hence triggering dangerous cell growth.

“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,” Lindsey S. Treviño, the study’s lead researcher, said in a press release.


The study is a product of the Bench to Community Initiative, which comprises community activists, scientists, breast cancer survivors, and hair stylists who come together to study the relationship between breast cancer and chemicals in Black hair care products.

Boston University’s Black Women’s Health Study has been tracking 59,000 women who enrolled in the study in 1995. The study has not reported any connection between moderate use of hair relaxers and an increased risk of breast cancer. However, the study found that there is evidence that a more aggressive form of cancer is linked to “heavy use of lye-containing hair relaxers.”

“These results provide new data that parabens also cause harmful effects in breast cancer cells from Black women,” Treviño added in the press release.


The global Black hair care industry was worth over $2.5 billion in 2020, according to Afro Lovely. The report also found that Black consumers spent $54.4 million on ethnic hair and beauty products in 2018. That made up 85.7$ of total spending in the category.

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