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Your Environment. Your Health.

Hair Care and Black Women’s Health

Partnerships for Environmental Public Education (PEPH)

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Hair Care and Black Women’s Health

May 20, 2021

Interviewee: Jasmine McDonald, Ph.D.

In this podcast, we’ll hear from Jasmine McDonald, Ph.D., who studies the link between hair product use and breast cancer risk among women of color. McDonald talks about differences in hair product use by race, what exposure to the chemicals in these products means for health, and an intervention study she is leading to reduce the use of hair products containing harmful chemicals among pregnant women of color.

Hair Care and Black Women’s Health

Black women are more likely to use certain hair care products, like chemical hair straighteners and moisturizers, compared to other racial groups. Many hair products used by Black girls and women contain endocrine disrupting chemicals that act like or interfere with hormones in the body. Studies link the use of these products to early onset of puberty in girls and increased risk of uterine fibroid tumors among women of color.

In this podcast, we’ll hear from Jasmine McDonald, Ph.D., who studies the link between hair product use and breast cancer risk among women of color. McDonald talks about differences in hair product use by race, what exposure to the chemicals in these products means for health, and an intervention study she is leading to reduce the use of hair products containing harmful chemicals among pregnant women of color.

Interviewee

Jasmine McDonald

Jasmine McDonald, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, is trained in breast cancer epidemiology, molecular epidemiology, and infectious disease. Her research integrates individual level factors and the macroenvironment with biology to inform how these multiple levels of etiology impact breast cancer risk across the life course – from early life to adulthood. McDonald’s early life research focuses on factors associated with growth and development in girls, where markers of pubertal development are suggested breast cancer risk factors. Her studies of women in midlife focus on varied health behaviors in diverse populations that experience a higher burden of cancer. Much of McDonald’s research is nested within populations that have a higher burden of cancer including those with a genetic predisposition, racial and ethnic minorities, and young women. In 2020, McDonald was awarded a pilot project from the NIEHS-funded Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan to implement an educational intervention to reduce the use of hair care products that contain endocrine disrupting chemicals among pregnant women of color

Additional Resources

Relevant References

McDonald JA, Tehranifar P, Flom JD, Terry MB, James-Todd T. 2018. Hair product use, age at menarche and mammographic breast density in multiethnic urban women. Environ Health 17(1):1. [Abstract McDonald JA, Tehranifar P, Flom JD, Terry MB, James-Todd T. 2018. Hair product use, age at menarche and mammographic breast density in multiethnic urban women. Environ Health 17(1):1.] [Full Text McDonald JA, Tehranifar P, Flom JD, Terry MB, James-Todd T. 2018. Hair product use, age at menarche and mammographic breast density in multiethnic urban women. Environ Health 17(1):1.]

Zota AR, Shamasunder B. 2017. The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern. Am J Obstet Gynecol 217(4):418.e1-418.e6. [Abstract Zota AR, Shamasunder B. 2017. The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern. Am J Obstet Gynecol 217(4):418.e1-418.e6.] [Full Text Zota AR, Shamasunder B. 2017. The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern. Am J Obstet Gynecol 217(4):418.e1-418.e6.]

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