FDA proposes ban on hair-relaxers; experts on how it can cause uterine cancer | Health - Hindustan Times

FDA proposes ban on hair-straightening products with formaldehyde; experts on how it can cause uterine cancer

By, New Delhi
Oct 19, 2023 03:22 PM IST

The US FDA has proposed to ban formaldehyde in hair smoothing and hair straightening products. Experts on how it can raise risk of uterine cancer.

The US Food and Drug Administration has proposed to ban formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in hair smoothing and hair straightening products, also called relaxers, reported NBC News. According to several studies, formaldehyde, commonly used in medicines and cosmetics, is said to be highly toxic and is linked to many kinds of cancer including uterine cancer. Its repeated exposure can cause many skin and eye issues. (Also read: 10 effortless and chic hairstyles to try with your straightener)

It has been observed that women who use chemical hair straighteners having formaldehyde as an ingredient may have a higher risk of uterine cancer. (Freepik)
It has been observed that women who use chemical hair straighteners having formaldehyde as an ingredient may have a higher risk of uterine cancer. (Freepik)

"It has been observed that women who use chemical hair straighteners having formaldehyde as an ingredient may have a higher risk of uterine cancer. A 'sister study' that enrolled women asked them about their usage of hair products over the previous year, including hair dyes, straighteners and relaxers, and permanents or body waves. After a follow-up of little over a decade, incidence of uterine cancer in women who had reported using hair straightening products were almost twice as to those who did not. It has also been observed that Black women start using hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages as compared to other races and ethnicities making the black women more prone to uterine cancer. It is estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would develop uterine cancer by the age of 70 years however the frequent users risk goes up to 4.05%. As a piece of advice please choose your beauty products with great care and after thorough research," says Dr Sunny Jain, HOD and Sr Consultant Oncology, Marengo Asia Hospitals Faridabad.

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What is uterine cancer?

Uterine cancer, specifically called Endometrial Cancer is a type of cancer that originates in uterus, the organ where a foetus develops during pregnancy. It can occur due to lifestyle issues such as obesity or sedentary lifestyle, certain disorders like PCOS, late menopause or environmental factors like exposure to chemicals like formaldehyde.

"Although endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer in the Western countries, it comprises only 2.5% of all cancers in women in India. But it is important to know that the incidence of uterine cancer is increasing at an alarming rate in India, which is mainly attributed to the changing trends in lifestyle, including obesity and lack of physical activity, and changing reproductive profile in women, especially in urban India. Several factors can increase the risk of developing uterine cancer, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, oestrogen therapy, tamoxifen therapy, polycystic ovary syndrome, having no children, late menopause and some inherited conditions," says Dr Rashmi Rekha Bora, Senior Consultant, Department of Gynae-Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

"Furthermore, some environmental factors may also play a role in causing uterine cancer. One of these factors is the exposure to hair straightening products, such as chemical relaxers that contain formaldehyde or other substances that can release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen that can damage DNA and cause mutations. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found that women who used hair straightening products frequently (more than four times in the previous year) had a more than twofold increased risk of developing uterine cancer compared to those who did not use such products," adds Dr Rashmi.

"Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential health hazards associated with hair straightening products and to reduce or avoid their use if possible. Moreover, it is advisable to consult a doctor if any signs of uterine cancer are present, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic pain or pressure. Early diagnosis and treatment can help cure, improve the survival and quality of life for women with uterine cancer," she says.

Other causes of uterine cancer

The uterus, also called the womb is a female reproductive organ where the baby grows from a zygote to infant. An uncontrolled unrestricted growth of cells with faulty genetic backup leads to uterine cancer.

"A female suffering from uterine cancer usually complains of vaginal discharge, bleeding, post menstrual bleeding or may be inter menstrual cycle bleeding, pain or pressure in the pelvic area. Approximately 66,200 new cases of cancer of uterus shall be diagnosed in 2023 of which around 13,030 women will die from cancers of the uterine body. Most common causes or risk factors of uterine cancers are- postmenopausal female, endometrial hyperplasia, nulliparity, early menarche and late menopause, obesity, family history, previous history of ovarian tumours, or polycystic ovary syndrome, using hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment etc," says Dr Jain.

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