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Hair Taiba AkhuetiePhotography Michèle Côté

African American women who use hair dye more at risk of cancer, study finds

New research reveals black women are 45 per cent more likely to get breast cancer compared to 7 per cent of white women

Despite recent laws prohibiting it in New York, discrimination towards women of colour’s hairstyles in America is still extremely prevalent. In fact, it’s still legal in many states to ban dreadlocks in the workplace or not hire them because of it. 

Due to this, it’s no surprise that women of colour are forced to comply to white standards of beauty – using a number of products to chemically straighten and change the colour of their hair to fit in. However, recently released research shows that doing so is making them more at risk of cancer. Published in the Guardian, the study of 47,000 American women found that women of colour were 45 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer versus 7 per cent of white women. Women who frequently used dye to colour their hair could raise the risk up to 60 per cent. 

Previous studies have shown that cosmetic products specifically marketed to African American women contain chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system – causing cancerous tumours as well as issues with reproduction. Elsewhere, researchers found that regardless of race, women who use chemical hair straighteners every five to eight weeks were 31 per cent more at risk of breast cancer. 

In comparison to the EU, which has banned over 1,300 chemicals from use in cosmetics, the US has only banned 11.