Tag: race/ethnicity

Parabens in Hair Products May Increase Breast Cancer Risk for Black Women

Parabens, chemicals which are found in widely used hair and personal care products, cause harmful effects in breast cancer cells from Black women, according to a new study presented at ENDO 2022, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

In the US, the lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in eight, and Black women are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer under the age of 40 than any other racial or ethnic group in that country. Breast cancer rates among Black South African women are also on the increase, but the cause remains unexplained and research in this area has been lacking.

“One reason for the higher risk of breast cancer may be exposure to harmful chemicals called endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hair and personal care products,” said lead researcher Lindsey S. Treviño, PhD. “These chemicals mimic the effects of hormones on the body.”

Parabens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in hair and other personal care products. Parabens cause breast cancer cells to grow, invade, spread, and express genes linked to cancer and to hormone action. Research showed that fewer paraben-free options are marketed to Black women.

“Black women are more likely to buy and use hair products with these types of chemicals, but we do not have a lot of data about how parabens may increase breast cancer risk in Black women,” Dr Treviño said. “This is because Black women have not been picked to take part in most research studies looking at this link. Also, studies to test this link have only used breast cancer cell lines from White women.”

The new study tested the effects of parabens on breast cancer cells from Black women. Parabens were found to increase the growth of a Black breast cancer cell line but not in the White breast cancer cell line. Parabens increased expression of genes linked to hormone action in breast cancer cell lines from both Black and White women. Parabens also promoted the spread of breast cancer cells, with a bigger effect seen in the Black breast cancer cell line.

“These results provide new data that parabens also cause harmful effects in breast cancer cells from Black women,” Dr Treviño said. 

The study is a part of a community-led project called the Bench to Community Initiative (BCI), which brings together scientists and community members (including breast cancer survivors) to create ways to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals in hair and personal care products in Black women with breast cancer. 

“While this project focuses on Black women, the knowledge we gain about the link between exposure to harmful chemicals in personal care products and breast cancer risk can be used to help all women at high risk of getting breast cancer,” Dr Treviño said.

Source: Endocrine Society

Allergies Linked to Increased Cardiovascular Risk

Runny nose and sneezing symptoms
Photo by Britanny Colette on Unsplash

A national US health survey has revealed that adults with allergies are at an increased risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease, with the biggest risk increase seen in Black male adults. The study is presented at ACC Asia 2022 Together with the Korean Society of Cardiology Spring Conference.

“For patients with allergic disorders, routine evaluation of blood pressure and routine examination for coronary heart disease should be given by clinicians to ensure early treatments are given to those with hypertension or coronary heart disease,” said Yang Guo, PhD, the study’s lead author.

An association between allergic disorders and cardiovascular disease was detected in prior research, findings which remained controversial, Dr Guo explained. The present study sought to determine whether an increased cardiovascular risk exists in adults with allergic disorders.

The study used 2012 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a cross-sectional survey of the US population. In the allergic group were adults with at least one allergic disorder, including asthma, respiratory allergy, digestive allergy, skin allergy and other allergy. The study included a total of 34 417 adults, over half of whom were women, average age 48.5 years. The allergic group included 10 045 adults. The researchers adjusted for age, sex, race, smoking, alcohol drinking and body mass index; they also examined subgroups stratified by demographic factors.

Having a history of allergic disorders was found to be associated with increased risk of developing hypertension and coronary heart disease. Further analysis showed that individuals with a history of allergic disorders between ages 18 and 57 had a higher risk of hypertension. An increased risk of coronary heart disease was seen in male Black/African American participants between ages 39-57. Asthma was the largest contributor of risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Dr Guo said that to confirmed these findings, large cohort studies with long-term follow-up are required. Discovering the underlying mechanism could also help with management.

Source: American College of Cardiology

The Need for an African Genetic Library

Source: Mart Production on Pexels

Earlier this year, UCT professor Ambroise Wonkam published the Three Million African Genomes (3MAG) project in Nature, which he said started with a “crazy idea”. Now, it looks like his vision is starting to take shape.

The idea of creating a huge library of genetic information about the population of Africa emerged from his work on how genetic mutations among Africans contribute to conditions like sickle-cell disease and hearing impairments.

African genes contain great genetic variation, more than that seen outside of Africa. As he explained, “We are all African but only a small fraction of Africans moved out of Africa about 20–40 000 years ago and settled in Europe and in Asia.”

Another concern for Prof Wonkam is equity, saying: “Too little of the knowledge and applications from genomics have benefited the global south because of inequalities in health-care systems, a small local research workforce and lack of funding.”

Thus far only about 2% of genomes mapped are African, a good proportion of which are African American. This stes from a lack of prioritising funding, policies and training infrastructure, he says, but it also means the understanding of genetic medicine as a whole is lopsided. By studying African genomes, injustics can be corrected, such as finding that genetic risk profiles based on Europeans could be misleading for those of African descent.

To address these disparities, Prof Wonkam and other scientists are speaking to governments, companies and professional bodies across Africa and internationally, in order to build up capacity over the next decade to make the vision a reality.

He expects three million is the number needed to accurately map genetic variations across Africa. The project will take a decade, he says, costing around $450m per year, with industry already showing interest. 

Biotech firms welcome prospects of new data
The Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR) in Cape Town works with biotech firm Artisan Biomed on a variety of diagnostic tests. Gaps in the applicability of genetic data to the local population are a challenge for the firm, it said.

A genetic mutation in someone could be found but it would be uncertain if that variation is associated with a disease, especially as a marker for that particular population.

“The more information you have at that level, the better the diagnosis, treatment and eventually care can be for any individual, regardless of your ethnicity,” said Dr Lindsay Petersen, the company’s chief operations officer.

Artisan Biomed says the data it collects feeds back into CPGR’s research – allowing them to design a better diagnostic toolkit that is better suited to African populations, for instance.

Dr Judith Hornby Cuff said that the 3MAG project would help streamline processes and improve research, and one day could provide cheaper, more effective and more accessible health care, particularly in the strained South African system.

Prof Wonkam acknowledged that while the costs are huge, the project will “improve capacity in a whole range of biomedical disciplines that will equip Africa to tackle public-health challenges more equitably”.

“We have to be ambitious when we are in Africa. You have so many challenges you cannot see small, you have to see big – and really big,” he said.

Source: BBC News

Black US Women at Increased Risk of Birth Complication

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Black US women are more likely than their white counterparts to experience a serious complication during labour or delivery, particularly due to systemic inflammation.

Systemic inflammation was one of four categories identified by the researchers when they looked for patterns in patients who experienced severe maternal morbidity (SMM) – an unexpected outcome of labour and delivery resulting in significant short- or long-term health consequences, including death. 

Women can experience multiple complications or events associated with SMM such as kidney failure and eclampsia. The study found these complications or events can occur within four categories: systemic inflammation (includes shock, abnormal blood clotting, adult respiratory distress syndrome [ARDS] and ventilation); cardiovascular events (includes kidney failure, eclampsia and cerebrovascular events such as aneurysm); admission to the intensive care unit; and haemorrhage leading to blood transfusion.

Black women were found to be at higher risk than white women in all four SMM categories, with the highest proportion experiencing SMM due to systemic inflammation.

“Previous studies have reported the higher the number of SMM complications or events a woman experiences, the higher the likelihood of death, but our study is the first to look at how these complications and events group together and their association with outcomes,” said lead author Andrea Ibarra, MD, MS, assistant professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “We determined characteristics such as race, obesity and diabetes can identify which women are at higher risk of severe events, including death, in the various categories. That insight can spur efforts to develop new obstetric protocols and guidelines to improve care.”

Researchers reviewed records of 97 492 deliveries at one institution between 2008 and 2017 and determined that 2666 (2.7%) included an SMM event, with 49 women dying within a year of delivery. They found 44% of the deliveries associated with SMM were pre-term. Black women had higher rates of SMM (4.1%) than white women (2.4%).

Risk factors for all-category SMM included race, having pre-existing diabetes or having preeclampsia. Caesarean delivery was an additional risk factor for the haemorrhage category. Additional risk factors relating to women who fell in the systemic inflammation category were depression and social determinants, including low income or not graduating from high school.

“This research is crucial because most maternal morbidity is preventable,” said Dr Ibarra. “By identifying factors that put women at high risk of developing SMM complications or events, we can allocate more resources toward perinatal care.”

The findings were presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2021 annual meeting.

Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists