Use of hair products in relation to ovarian cancer risk

Carcinogenesis. 2021 Oct 5;42(9):1189-1195. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgab056.


We evaluated whether hair products, which may contain carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, are related to ovarian cancer incidence in a prospective cohort. After excluding women with a history of ovarian cancer or bilateral oophorectomy, 40 559 Sister Study participants ages 35-74 at enrollment (2003-2009) were included. Participants completed questionnaires on hair product use, including hair dyes, straighteners/relaxers and permanents/body waves, in the past 12 months. Cox regression was used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between hair products and incident ovarian cancer. We assessed associations stratified by tumor type (serous, non-serous). Over a mean follow-up of 10 years, 241 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ever use of any of the examined hair products during the past year was not associated with ovarian cancer risk. However, frequent use (>4 times/year) of straighteners/relaxers or pressing products in the past year was associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer (HR = 2.19, 95% CI: 1.12-4.27). Ever use of permanent hair dye was positively associated with non-serous (HR = 1.94, 95% CI 1.12-3.37), but inversely associated with serous (HR = 0.65, 95% CI: 0.43-0.99) tumors (p-for-heterogeneity = 0.002). Our novel findings suggest that frequent use of hair straighteners/relaxers or pressing products, which are primarily used by African American/Black women, and possibly permanent hair dye, may be associated with the occurrence of ovarian cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Endocrine Disruptors / analysis
  • Female
  • Hair Preparations / adverse effects*
  • Hair Preparations / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Carcinogens
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Hair Preparations