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A toxic chemical used in hair products for Black women can fuel breast cancer, study finds

Allana Akhtar

Jun 13, 2022, 6:45 AM

Haircare and beauty products marketed to Black women often contain a class of hormone-disrupting chemicals called parabens. According to a new study, those chemicals are not only linked to increased breast cancer risk, but they can also uniquely fuel the spread of cancer cells in Black women compared to white women.

Parabens are a group of chemicals that keep mold and bacteria from growing in beauty products in order to prolong their shelf lives. But in humans, parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, possibly fueling dangerous cell growth, according to research.

The study, which will be presented today at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Atlanta, analyzed the effect parabens had on breast cancer cells from both Black women and white women. Researchers found parabens increased the growth of Black breast-cancer cell lines but did not affect white breast-cancer cell lines at the same dose.

Parabens also increased the expression of genes linked to breast cancer in both Black and white women.

"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. "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."


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