Uterine fibroids affect black women at 3 times the rate that it affects white women or women of other races. No one knows why this is so but research into fibroids and its causes is ongoing. One of the studies that came out in 2012 relates to relaxers and fibroids and whether there is a link to help explain why black women are affected more by fibroids than women of other races.
Are Relaxers to Blame?
It is important to note that the results of the study published in the paper “Hair Relaxer Use and Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata in African-American Women” by Wise et al. is clear that relaxers ARE NOT the cause of uterine fibroids.
The causes of uterine fibroids remain unknown although certain risk factors may increase the risk of developing fibroid tumors such as race, family history, weight, lifestyle, etc. Estrogen and other hormones are also thought to be a factor with fibroid growth.
This brings us to the issue of this paper on fibroids and relaxers. Certain chemicals in relaxers are thought to have estrogen mimicking qualities that can worsen fibroids.
However, knowing what chemicals in relaxers have these properties is not clearly documented in the paper since the hair care industry is not regulated by the FDA and therefore, the manufacturers of these products do not have to state what is contained in relaxers or other hair care products commonly used by African-American women.
Though the study did not determine for certain, the researchers think that phthalates may be contained in relaxers. Though it has not been determined conclusively, phthalates are thought to be associated with fibroid tumor development.
Since it is not known for certain that phthalates are contained in relaxers, it is assumed that they are because most relaxers contain fragrance. It is known that phthalates are contained in 100 percent fragrance.
These phthalates are thought to be introduced into the body when the chemical relaxer burns the scalp. In addition to phthalates, parabens are also thought to be associated with fibroid development.
Parabens are in everything and are used as a preservative in most beauty products used by men and women of all races so singling out relaxers is a major weakness of this study.
Phthalates are commonly used to make plastics transparent, durable, flexible and strong and are commonly found in all aspects of everyday life.
These chemical toxins have estrogen like effects on the body and unlike plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) which are water soluble and can be eliminated by the body easily, chemical estrogens dissolve in body fat and remain in the body for a very long time.
Since they stay in the body for a very long time, no one knows what they can do in the body. Bodies are different and reactions to various chemicals in the body will vary. What can cause disease and sickness in one body may not necessarily do the same in another.
While the correlation between relaxer use and uterine fibroids in black women is probably a stretch, it is important to examine chemicals we expose ourselves to as they may increase our susceptibility to certain conditions including uterine fibroids. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Does this mean that relaxers should be thrown out? Not necessarily especially since some of these estrogen mimicking chemicals are contained in various other products and foods. It may mean examining all products and foods and either reducing or eliminating them.
If you have to straighten your hair with a relaxer, you may consider reducing usage of the relaxer. Instead of using relaxers twice a year, you may reduce your usage to two a three times a year.
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