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VERIFY: Can using hair relaxer cause breast cancer?

A study online suggests the chemicals in hair relaxer can cause cancer in black women. Here's what experts say.

ATLANTA — For years, there's been a lot of controversy surrounding women using hair relaxers. One study suggests it could actually cause cancer in Black women. 

Our VERIFY team went to experts to find out if that claim is true. 

Here's what we found. 



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

11Alive Medical Correspondent Dr. Sujatha Reddy


Can using hair relaxer products cause breast cancer? 


According to a cancer research study and Dr. Sujatha Reddy, it's inconclusive and more data needs to be collected. 


Hair relaxer products are commonly used by African American women or people with thick curly hair, to make it straight. 

For decades, Black women have spent countless hours in beauty salons to take their hair from it's natural texture and volume, to straight. 

As many would say, "fried, dyed and laid to the side." 

Credit: WXIA

But is it dangerous? 

According to Carcinogenesis, there may be risks to using certain hair relaxers.

Researchers in a recent journal revealed "hair relaxers and leave-in conditioners and oils, commonly used by Black/African American women, may contain estrogens or estrogen-disrupting compounds. Thus, their use may contribute to breast cancer risk." 

The CDC said between 2010-2014, "breast cancer mortality was 41% higher among Black women than white women." 

But are hair relaxers a contributing factor? 

Carcinogenesis said the study results are inconsistent and inconclusive. 

“More research needs to be done," Dr. Reddy said. 

The metro Atlanta doctor said her concern is the study finding that said "there was some evidence that heavy use of lye containing hair relaxers may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer." 

“If people are worried about it, the one thing to do is avoid the relaxers that have lye in them because those may have had a slight increase risk. And I’m using hedgy terms because there’s really no conclusive data. But the safer thing is if you’re really worried at all, I would avoid lye containing hair relaxers," Dr. Reddy explained. 

So, can using hair relaxer products lead to possible breast cancer? 

According to a cancer research study and Dr. Reddy, it is inconclusive and more data needs to be collected. 

Our VERIFY team is here to fact-check claims being shared in the community and online. Fill out the form below with something you'd like us to Verify.