An emerging study has found that young girls’ use of hair relaxers has been linked to early puberty and fibroids.
The study, conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, revealed that young girls who use hair relaxers are likelier to develop uterine fibroids and to undergo early menstruation, said NewsOne. The reasons for the link remain unclear, said NewsOne.
The American Journal of Epidemiology pointed out that hair relaxer products, used by millions of black women, could be exposing them to a number of chemicals via scalp lesions and burns. In the study—Black Women’s Health Study—the team assessed hair relaxer use as it concerned the incidence of uterine leiomyomata—known as fibroids.
Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the uterus and are constructed of muscle fibers, said BET. As small as peas in some cases, fibroids can grow to be as large as a melon. About 20-50 percent of women have, or will have, fibroids at some point; fibroids are considered rare in women under the age of 20 and most common in women who are in their 30s and 40s. Fibroids usually shrink in size during menopause, noted BET.
The 1997 study asked participants to report on their hair relaxer use, including their age when they first used a relaxer product, how often they used the product and for how long, the type of formulation for the product, and the number of burns suffered. The research team followed 23,580 premenopausal women from 1997 to 2009 and looked at the incidence of uterine leiomyomata; 7,146 cases of uterine leiomyomata were reported and confirmed by ultrasound or surgery.
The research revealed that, while the women’s first menstrual period began anywhere from eight to 19 years of age, African American women who were likelier to use straightening and relaxer hair oils reached menarche—their first period—at younger ages than other racial/ethnic groups, said BlackDoctor and BET.
This translates into, said BET, a two- to three-fold increased risk for fibroids among black women that may be associated chemical exposure from relaxers. The team also found that risk was not related to age at first use or the type of formulation used, but did raise the theory that hair relaxer use increases uterine leiomyomata risk, said The American Journal of Epidemiology.
Also, women who got their first menstrual period before reaching the age of ten were likelier to be diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Early menarche may be the result of hair products Black girls use, wrote BET, citing another study that was published, last summer, in the journal, The Annals of Epidemiology.
The link between relaxers, fibroid tumors, and puberty is considered more cause and effect at this point, explained BlackDoctor and BET. Experts note that because the hair care industry is not FDA-regulated, there is no way to fully understand the harm presented by hair care products targeted to Black women.