Study Shows Likely Connection Between Hair Straightening Chemicals and Uterine Cancer
A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and conducted by the National Institutes of Health has discovered an increased risk of uterine cancer among people that use hair straightening chemicals or relaxers. Frequent users of chemical relaxers were more than twice as likely to go on to develop uterine cancer compared to the general population who do not use hair relaxers. The study defined a frequent user as one who treated their hair with chemical straighteners or relaxers at least four times a year. Keep in mind that black women have a much greater risk of developing endometrial cancer, the most common form of uterine cancer.
Medical researchers were puzzled for decades why uterine cancer rates were so disproportionately high among black women. It turns out, black women are not predisposed to uterine cancer or ovarian cancer. In fact, even the recent study did not reflect that a relationship between uterine cancer incidence and hair relaxer use was different by race. Rather, black women are disproportionately impacted due to the prevalence of using chemical hair straightening products.
Hair Straighteners Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals
The endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hair straightening or hair relaxer products are now believed to be a likely cause as a result of the above-referenced study published by the National Cancer Institute. At a very minimum, these chemicals have been shown to cause adverse health effects.
Chemical hair straightening products are used primarily to help style curly or wavy hair by breaking down its structure and are often used repeatedly to maintain the effect which is now believed to put many users at risk for uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine fibroids resulting in a hysterectomy. Most specifically, the risk of developing uterine cancer has now been firmly linked to hair straightener use. If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer, please reach out to us right away at 833-552-7274.
First Hair Relaxer Lawsuit Filed
Over the past month, a number of hair relaxer lawsuits have now been filed. The first hair straightening lawsuit was filed by Jennifer Mitchell, in the United States Federal Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Her lawsuit alleges that exposure to phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hair relaxers she consumed, lead to her developing endometrial cancer at age 28. In turn, she underwent a full hysterectomy before her 3oth birthday. Thus, her lawsuit blames hair relaxers for her uterine cancer. While this may have been the first hair straightening lawsuit to be filed, a slew of others was not far behind.
Chemical Hair Straightener Uterine Cancer Lawsuit
Hair products are supposed to meet the rigorous safety standards expected of cosmetic products to avoid these dangerous effects. Consumers should expect their hair products to be safe for use and present a danger to one's health. However, possible cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals such as these, can be the grounds on which one can file a chemical hair straightener lawsuit to seek compensation for damages they suffered.
Dolman Law Group is a nationally recognized and award-winning law firm that has assisted many clients with mass torts, catastrophic injury, and product liability lawsuits ranging from consumer goods to defective drugs. We are at the forefront of the hair straightener cancer lawsuit. Immediately contact our hair relaxer cancer attorneys and product liability lawyers about the possibility of taking legal action if you have developed uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine fibroids requiring a hysterectomy as a result of regular use of hair straightening products.
Can Hair Relaxers Cause Cancer?
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Cancer or Health Conditions
A number of chemical hair straightening products used primarily by black women contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) earned their name as they alter and disrupt the functions of our endocrine system which controls the body's production of various hormones. Disruption of the endocrine system can lead to a number of diseases controlled by our hormones such as diabetes, obesity, and several types of cancer.
Uterine Cancer Caused by Hair Straighteners
The connection between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and uterine or breast cancer has been widely studied including this recent study from the National Institutes of Health. Endocrine disruptors such as phthalates, parabens, and fragrances are present in chemical hair relaxer products. We are very confident in the science linking endocrine-disrupting chemicals and uterine cancer. The link between hair straightener use and uterine cancer continues growing stronger with now two peer-reviewed studies published on this very subject.
Parabens, for instance, are antimicrobial preservatives common in cosmetic products. A 2010 study, published by the journal Environmental Health Perspective found that black women have a greater level of parabens and phthalates which can be attributed to chemical hair relaxer products that are more commonly used by black women. This helps explain why black women have much higher rates and more aggressive forms of breast and endometrial cancers as compared to white women.
Hormone Related Cancers Like Endometrial Cancer
Endometrial cancer (uterine cancer) and ovarian cancer rely on the hormone estrogen to grow and develop. Endocrine disruptors can lead to the overstimulation of cells and aid in the development of either of the three aforementioned cancers. The link between hair relaxers and endometrial cancer, breast cancer, or ovarian cancer can no longer be ignored. Endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer are both hormone-sensitive cancers.
Hair Straightener and Endometrial Cancer
As stated in the previous paragraph, endometrial cancer is a hormone-sensitive cancer. We have already discussed how endocrine-disrupting chemicals play a large role in hormone-sensitive cancers.
Now, we must note that the most common cancer found in this study was endometrial cancer via an endometrioid (tumor). Endometrial cancer is particularly sensitive to hormonal factors and this gives greater credence to endocrine disruptors in chemical hair straightening products being the likely culprit.
Studies Might Show Greater Impact on Black Women
This recent study comes on the heels of other studies such as one by the International Journal of Cancer that discovered possible links between hair straighteners and hair dyes and their contributions to the development of breast and ovarian cancers.
This latest study examined the data from the Sister Study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Cancer Epidemiology Group) on roughly 34,000 women in the United States aged 35 to 74. These study subjects filled out questionnaires that asked about their use of several hair products like hair straighteners, hair dye, permanents, body waves, relaxers, and hair pressing products.
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The Statistics of Uterine Cancer Risk and Chemical Hair Straightener Usage
The study found 378 cases of uterine cancer diagnosis out of the 33,497 participants in the study. Out of the women that reported never using hair straightening products, only 1.64% would go on to develop uterine cancer by age 70. On the other hand, 4.05% of women that reported using chemical hair straighteners and relaxers frequently developed uterine cancer by age 70.
Frequent Users Have the Greatest Risk of Cancer
Women that reported frequent use of chemical hair straighteners in the past year were found to be at higher risk to develop uterine cancer than those that had never used these kinds of hair products. Women that reported using chemical hair straighteners four times in the past year were found to be even more at risk to suffer uterine cancer. Uterine cancer is fairly rare and these statistics may not exceed the single digits but they do indicate a veritable increase in risk that can be tied to the use of chemical hair straighteners.
The study participants that used hair straighteners saw over a double increase in cases of uterine cancer compared to participants that never used these hair products. Also, despite these only being single-digit percentages, when applied to the large number of women that use these products, these percentages translate to thousands of cases of uterine cancer.
Can Hair Products Increase the Risk of Uterine Cancer?
The study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute did not ask which specific brands of chemical hair straightening or relaxer products the participants used or what chemicals were in the products that they used.
What it did determine was that the aforementioned risks for uterine cancer were applicable to those that used chemical hair straighteners but the same links to uterine cancer did not exist with hair dyes, highlights, and perms. Despite this, many of these products still are under heavy scrutiny due to past studies finding a potential link between them and other cancers like breast cancer.
Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) also utilized data from the Sister Study. Their analysis identified 2,794 cases of breast cancer after chemical hair straighteners use and a 30% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer among women that used hair straighteners at least every five to eight weeks.
Why Does Chemical Hair Straightener Increase Uterine Cancer Risk?
The cumulative studies conducted to date don't provide us with a definitive answer as to why exactly hair straighteners are connected to an increased risk for uterine cancer.
So far, studies have only been able to determine that there is in fact a connection and make some estimates as to how they play a role in this risk. However, researchers have drawn the assumption—based on a large body of scientific evidence—that the presence of endocrine disruptors in specific chemicals leads directly to the increased risk for a host of cancers and health issues, such as diabetes and obesity.
The fact remains that black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with uterine cancer and more specifically endometrial cancer.
Studies have shown that these hair products do tend to have harsher chemical compositions that are needed to break down the structure of the consumer’s hair and render it into the desired straightness or relaxed state.
The cancers that have been connected to these hair products tend to be caused by hormonal disruptions which have led scientists to theorize this may be how hair straighteners increase cancer risk and more specifically uterine cancer risk.
Scientists worry that endocrine-disrupting chemicals are readily absorbed into the scalp. Further, they present estrogen properties in the human body which may play a large role in the rapid growth of uterine cancer and more specifically endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer among females.
Chemical hair straightening products usually contain parabens, bisphenol A and formaldehyde, which individually contribute to the occurrence of uterine cancer but collectively may prove to be more dangerous. These hair straightening products contain high levels of these chemicals and we are just learning how those dangerous chemicals work together and the mechanism wherein they can lead to endometrial cancer.
Increased Uterine Cancer Risk Among Black Women
Even though uterine cancer is considered to be a fairly rare cancer, studies have indicated that black women are diagnosed with it at a higher rate than any other race. This increased risk of developing uterine cancer is echoed by the results of this study.
Despite black women only making up 7.4% of the National Institutes of Health study’s participants, they made up 59.9% of those that reported using chemical hair straighteners. In another study, researchers found that black women that regularly used permanent hair dyes were associated with a 60% increase in breast cancer diagnosis compared to an 8% increase in risk among caucasian women.
The researchers found no associations for uterine cancer among other hair products (not used for straightening) that the women reported using, including bleach, highlights, perms, and permanent hair dye that altered natural hair. Chemical hair straightening products simply contain extremely high amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Is Straightening Hair Toxic for Black Women?
I strongly recommend reading the following study, Use of Straighteners and Other Hair Products and Incident Uterine Cancer. This study is the first epidemiological evidence linking hair relaxer use to uterine cancer (and the most common form of uterine cancer - endometrial cancer). The rate of uterine cancer reported in this study is alarming as it amounts to a relatively rare type of cancer.
Black women make up the primary consumer demographic for chemical hair straighteners and relaxers due to pressure to conform to eurocentric beauty standards and in many cases, a desire for cosmetic versatility. This demographic not only consumes these products more than women of other races but they use them much earlier on in their lives as well. It is also believed that black women are more likely to use multiple products simultaneously which can possibly be a contributing factor to the risk of cancer.
Researchers have long sought to understand why black women have higher rates of uterine cancer. The answer may reside in the fact that black women use hair straightening chemicals at four times the rate of white women. Further, other hair products contribute very little risk of uterine cancer.
Finally, researchers also believe that exposure to hair straightening chemicals at earlier ages is also troubling as the scalp allows for greater absorption. Hair straighteners also cause burns and lesions which may further exacerbate the absorption of chemicals into the scalp. The goal is to eliminate or at least drastically decrease health disparities among black women.
Uterine Cancer and the Damage it Causes
The uterus is a hollow organ where the fetus develops and increases in size during a woman's pregnancy. Uterine cancer, as its name suggests, is cancer located in the uterus usually beginning in its lining (endometrium). It is one of the more common gynecological cancers that affect the female reproductive system but in many cases, it can be cured in the early stages through a hysterectomy and other treatments such as immunotherapy and chemotherapy.
Types of Uterine Cancer
There are two types of uterine cancer:
- endometrial cancer
- uterine sarcoma
Endometrial cancer is a form of uterine cancer that grows within the lining of the uterus. This is the most common form of uterine cancer. It occurs when cells located in the lining of the uterus increase in number and grow out of control. Endometrial cancer is also known as endometrial carcinoma. In turn, endometrial cancer is divided into a number of sub-classifications based on how the cancer cells appear under a microscope. The most common type of endometrial cancer is adenocarcinoma.
Uterine sarcoma is a less common form of uterine cancer. This is a very rare form of uterine cancer that grows within the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus.
Uterine cancer is a hormone-based cancer and a women's hormonal balance plays a large role in the vast majority of endometrial cancers. In fact, estrogen leads to the development and growth of uterine or ovarian cancer. Hence, why endocrine-disrupting chemicals prove to be a significant risk factor for both types of cancer.
This does not change the fact that uterine cancer can be an incredibly painful and distressing illness to go through. Any cancer has the potential to cause significant damages such as overwhelming medical bills, lost wages, mental anguish, and loss of quality of life.
Consumers have rights and when products like chemical hair straighteners and relaxers cause illnesses as serious as uterine cancer, a product liability lawsuit and mass torts case should be considered.
Status of the Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuits
December 28, 2022 - Update on the Hair Straightener Lawsuit
Multiple defendants have now filed motions opposing the transfer of venue and the creation of a national chemical hair relaxer uterine cancer MDL. Over the last ten days, responses from manufacturers of chemical hair straighteners, such as L'Oreal, Strength of Nature, Dabur, and House of Cheatham have been filed with the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
The manufacturers were uniform in their opposition to the centralization of these lawsuits and allege the vast number of defendants and diseases make consolidation an inefficient solution. In fact, they would prefer the lawsuits continue on their current tracks throughout the nation. Further, they also oppose the Northern District of Illinois as a venue, and L'Oreal for one would prefer the venue to be the Southern District of New York should an MDL be created. The JPML has set a hearing in Miami, on January 25, 2023, to entertain oral arguments both for and against the creation of a hair straightening uterine cancer lawsuit MDL.
December 17, 2022 - Update on the Hair Straightener Lawsuits
The Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a notice of hearing for the morning of January 25, 2023, wherein they will entertain oral arguments on whether all pending hair straightener uterine cancer lawsuits should be consolidated into a new MDL. A group of plaintiffs has argued that the common questions of fact and law contained in these lawsuits spread throughout Federal jurisdictions should be consolidated for purposes of streamlining discovery and setting bellwether trials in the near future.
MDLs are created to avoid redundancy in discovery across potentially thousands of cases. Further, an MDL prevents a situation where pre trial rulings are in conflict with one another and common witnesses would be trekking all over the nation to appear in various lawsuits.
November 15, 2022 - Update on the Hair Straightener Lawsuit
A number of plaintiffs came together and filed a motion with the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to transfer actions and establish a national hair straightener uterine cancer MDL (Multidistrict litigation). The plaintiffs seek to consolidate all chemical hair relaxer lawsuits that are currently pending in Federal Courts throughout the United States and have them brought into a single jurisdiction before one Judge. In their memorandum of law, the plaintiffs requested that all hair straightener lawsuits be consolidated in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Future of Hair Relaxer Lawsuits
A motion was filed this week by several lawyers requesting the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidate all lawsuits filed in various federal courts and centralize them before one Federal Judge. There a presently ten lawsuits filed in four separate federal jurisdictions We anticipate the JPML will entertain arguments for creating a hair relaxer MDL at their next hearing which is scheduled for January 26, 2023, in Miami. Additionally, we expect hundreds of hair straightener lawsuits to be filed in Federal Courts over the coming weeks. All the more reason, we expect a hair relaxer lawsuit MDL to be established very soon.
Hair Straightener Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer
Research published in 2021, known as Boston University's Black Woman Study found that women who used hair products containing lye at least seven times over the course of fifteen years had a thirty percent higher risk of breast cancer. Boston University studied 59,000 women who self-identified as black for twenty-five years in an attempt to identify risk factors for breast cancer.
Researchers consider lye one of many chemicals that pose risk factors for breast cancer. However, more research must be conducted to determine why black women have a much lower survival rate and tend to face more aggressive forms of breast cancer as opposed to white women. Prior to this study, previous research on the link between hair straightening chemicals and breast cancer was inconclusive.
How Our Product Liability Lawyers Can Help
Dolman Law Group is an award-winning personal injury law firm dedicated to assisting clients harmed by defective products. Our product liability lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience representing clients that have suffered debilitating injuries and can provide you with the skills and insight developed through this experience to build you a successful case.
Consumers are owed a basic duty of care by the makers of products like chemical hair straighteners and their failure to provide a product free of this unnecessary risk for cancer or at the very least, a warning of this risk can potentially make them liable for damages consumers of their products have suffered.
Speaking to a product liability lawyer can shed light on whether or not you may be able to take legal action, who may be liable, what damages you can seek, and more. With our assistance, clients have been able to get the compensation they need to get their life back on track and see those responsible for their injuries experience consequences.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Hair Straightener Cancer Lawsuit
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with uterine cancer after using chemical hair straighteners or relaxers then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group about your potential hair relaxer lawsuit. Dolman Law Group serves clients from 15 locations across the state of Florida as well as offices across the nation in San Antonio, Boston, Houston, Savannah, and the Bronx.
We offer free consultations to prospective clients and can help you determine what legal options are available to you in regards to the hair straightening lawsuit.