Background of the Study
The study mentioned was conducted following 59000 black women between the ages of 21-69 years old. The women were from 17 states across the US inclusive of New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, and New Jersey.
The women would be sent questionnaires every two years from 1995 through to 2009. After eliminating women with a history of fibroid, women who had reached menopause, those who had incomplete questionnaires and those who stopped co-operating the number dropped to 23580.
The women were asked if they used hair relaxers, whether lye or no lye relaxers were used, when was the first time they used relaxers, how frequently they relaxed and how long they had been using relaxers for.
Of the number a random sampling of the participants numbering 248 persons were sent questionnaires to seek permission to assess their medical records. The findings were as follows:
We obtained medical records from 127 of the 128 women who gave us permission and confirmed the self-report in 122 (96%). Among the 188 (76%) who provided supplemental survey data, 71% reported uterine leiomyomata-related symptoms prior to diagnosis, and 87% reported that their condition came to clinical attention because they sought treatment for symptoms or a tumor was palpable during a routine pelvic examination.
Hmmm, in my humble estimation 127 is a small number I hardly think we can use that as a conclusive indication that relaxers cause fibroid or increase the incidents of fibroid among black women; but hey what do I know?
Now in this study, as far as the hypotheses go, the probability of a link between hair relaxer usage and fibroids in black women hinged on the premise that relaxers contain harsh chemicals that cause burns to the scalp. This in turn was speculated to increase the possibility of the body absorbing those chemicals which could impact on the endocrine function. This is evidenced in the following statement from the conclusion:
Because lye relaxers are thought to contain harsher chemicals (e.g., sodium hydroxide) than no-lye formulations, we hypothesized that women who more often used lye relaxers would have a higher risk of scalp lesions or burns, thereby increasing dermal absorption of putative endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
One potential explanation for the lack of difference in association between lye and no-lye formulations is that both products pose a similar likelihood of scalp lesions and burns. Scalp inflammation and scarring alopecia have been documented anecdotally with both lye and no-lye relaxers (16).
In addition, although most women currently reported using no-lye formulations, most had probably used lye formulations in the past (16), which could have diluted the association. The study had no information on the individual brands of chemical relaxers used or on constituents that might be considered estrogen disruptors.