- A new study has found that cosmetic products containing parabens adversely affect cancer cells in black women.
- Parabens are a group of chemicals that prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in cosmetic products.
- The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Atlanta on Saturday.
Hair care products and cosmetics sold to black women often contain a class of hormone-disrupting chemicals called parabens. According to a new study, these chemicals are not only associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, but uniquely promote the spread of cancer cells in black women compared to white women.
Parabens are a group of chemicals that prevent the growth of mold and bacteria on cosmetic products, thus extending their shelf life. But in humans, parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which research says may promote dangerous cell growth.
The study, which will be presented today at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Atlanta, analyzed the effect of parabens on breast cancer cells in both black and white women. The researchers found that parabens increased the growth of black breast cancer cell lines, but did not affect white breast cancer cell lines at the same dose.
Parabens have also increased the expression of genes associated with 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 don’t have much data on how parabens can increase the risk of breast cancer in black women,” Lindsey S. Treviño, the study’s chief researcher, said in a press release. “This is because black women were not selected to participate in most of the research studies aimed at this link. Studies to test this link also used only breast cancer cell lines from white women.”
Researchers are increasingly studying the risk of cancer from cosmetic products for black women
The study is part of a community-led research project called the Bench to Community Initiative. The project brings together breast cancer survivors, hair stylists and community activists to study the link between harmful chemicals in Black haircare products and breast cancer.
Black women are particularly hard hit by breast cancer. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the demographic has a 41 percent higher breast cancer mortality rate, and blacks under the age of 50 have twice the breast cancer mortality rate than white women.
Observational studies have also studied the link between hair care products sold to black women and breast cancer. A Boston women’s black women’s health study, which looked at 59,000 women who enrolled in the study in 1995, found no link between moderate use of hair relaxants and a higher risk of breast cancer. BU researchers have found some evidence that “heavy use of lye-containing hair release agents” may be associated with a more aggressive form of breast cancer.
“These results provide new data that parabens also have detrimental effects on breast cancer cells from black women,” Treviño said in a report.
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