‘Beauty standards are causing cancer’: Rochester expert on Black women being at risk for uterine cancer


ROCHESTER N.Y. (WROC) — A recent study shows chemical hair straightening is linked to uterine cancer and Black women are at a higher risk due to more frequent use. 

In a study led by the National Institute of Health Sciences, roughly 33,000 U.S. women between the ages of 35-74 participated in an 11-year study and 378 uterine cancer cases were found.

Uterine cancer accounts for 3% of all new cancer cases, but it is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system with over 65,000 estimated new cases in 2022. Studies have shown that rates of uterine cancer have been rising in the United States, particularly among Black women. 

Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center Katrina Korfmacher said part of the problem stems from a lack of knowledge in labeling.

“We often don’t know what is in the chemicals we are using,” said Korfmacher. “So companies aren’t required to label products and if they do they are often labeled in confusing ways and people often don’t understand what the things in their products are or what they could do to them.”

Holly Anderson, Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Coalition in Rochester, said that at the local level, she and many others are actively working to change that.

“We at the breast cancer coalition are working very hard on what’s called the safe cosmetics and personal care products at the New York state level we’ve made a lot of progress in the assembly, a little less progress in the senate but we are working really hard on this legislation that would educate women and require manufacturers to actually label the product with what the chemicals of concern are,” said Anderson.

Anderson shares that she is also in a focus group of women who are having these discussions on what can be done in the community to keep women here and safe.

If you are interested in staying in the know about what’s harmful to women in your community, she suggests joining the focus groups. You can do so by contacting her directly at Holly@breastcancercoalition.org.