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AORTIC 2017: Are Skin Lighteners and Hair Relaxers Associated With Increased Risk of Breast Cancer?

By: Cordi Craig
Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2017

In a case-control study conducted by Louise Brinton, PhD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues, the use of skin lighteners and hair relaxers may pose risks as contributors to breast cancer among women in Ghana. A stronger relationship was observed between the use of hair relaxers than skin lighteners, suggesting further study may be justified. These findings were presented at the 2017 African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) International Conference on Cancer in Africa in Kigali, Rwanda.

Investigators of the Ghana Breast Health Study researched the usage patterns of skin lighteners and hair relaxers in 1201 invasive breast cancer cases and 2161 population controls. Control usage was about 25% for ever use of skin lighteners and nearly 90% for the use of hair relaxers for at least 1 year.

Although the link between skin lighteners and breast cancer risk was near null, a somewhat higher risk was noted in former (odds ratio [OR], 1.30) than current (OR, 0.94) users of these skin-lightening products. As for hair relaxers, an increased risk of breast cancer was associated with the use of these products, again with a higher risk observed in former (OR, 2.37) than current (OR, 1.48) users of these hair-relaxing products.

Potential predictors of breast cancer risk included the duration of use of these products and the use of nonlye products. A stronger relationship was seen among women with few children and those with smaller tumors at diagnosis, suggesting lifestyle factors that were not measured may be contributing to the higher risks observed.