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Breast cancer (BC) incidence rates for Black and non-Hispanic White women have recently converged; however, Black women continue to die at higher rates from the disease. Black women also use hair products containing hormonally active chemicals at higher rates than other races and ethnic groups. Studies now link chemical components in hair and personal care products to breast cancer risk. Using a community-based participatory research approach, this qualitative study explored community concerns about the role of hair products on breast cancer risk. Focus groups and key informant interviews using triangulation to assure relevant perspectives (women with and without breast cancer as well as younger and older women of differing SES, stylists) explored women’s perceived risk and knowledge of breast cancer risk factors. Data analysis used grounded theory methods of coding facilitated by QDA-Miner. Findings from 91 participants indicated varying levels of awareness but near universal concerns about the potential link of hair products to BC. Breast cancer is a significant concern for Black women and their loved ones. While women were concerned and some respondents believed ingredients in hair products may be harmful to their health, they wrestled with the idea of making changes as hair for most is aligned with beauty, individuality, and identity. For many altering their product use patterns to potentially less risky choices pits health against identity. Health education interventions to minimize harmful hair product usage must acknowledge and incorporate cultural normative beliefs of hair for Black women.


This article was originally published in Cogent Arts & Humanities, volume 4, issue 1, in 2017.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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