A new study linked the use of hair straighteners with uterine cancer—more specifically, the chemicals in the hair straightener. These products use endocrine disruptor compounds to cause hair to lose its curl. But what causes your hair to curl in the first place? Besides genetics and the shape of the follicle, the sulfides—keratin molecules—in your hair determine the shape of your hair. If the sulfides pair together, they create a disulfide bond, which bends your hair, making it curly.
The more disulfide bonds your hair has, the curlier it is. Hair straighteners contain chemicals that break the disulfide bonds, which causes hair to straighten. Studies found these chemicals to cause uterine cancer and other issues with the uterus. Even when you rinse the chemical out of your hair, usually within 20 minutes, the substances already do damage, especially if you use them for over a year.
Many cosmetics and hair straighteners contain phthalates, a type of endocrine disruptor. They may also contain sodium hydroxide, parabens, other chemicals, and formaldehyde, a known carcinogenic. Endocrine disruptors break the disulfide bonds in your hair, causing it to straighten.
An endocrine disruptor could be natural or man-made. They interfere with your hormones and may cause immune, reproductive, brain, and developmental problems and other issues, such as uterine and breast cancer.
You’ll find endocrine disruptors in many products you use every day, including detergents, plastic bottles, flame retardants, cosmetics, hair straighteners, hair relaxers, pesticides, metal can liners, metal cans, and even in toys. Those that are slow to break down can become hazardous over time.
Endocrine Disruptors and Uterine Cancer
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that the rates for some aggressive subtypes of uterine cancer increased in women from 30 to 79 years of age. The study took place over 15 years.
According to Megan Clarke, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, “Incidence rates of uterine cancer have been rising, and there have been previous reports of racial differences in incidence and survival rates, with disparities observed for non-Hispanic black women.”
Clarke went on to say that not many recent studies corrected for hysterectomy, but this current study did. Because the new study made this correction, the results are more accurate, including determining whether one race or ethnicity sees more incidences of uterine cancer.
Once corrected for hysterectomies, the study found that uterine cancer rates increased by 1 percent overall in the third through the fifteenth year of the study. During the same period, the rates increased even more in women in racial and ethnic groups other than white.
Finally, the researchers compared data on endometrial and non-endometrial uterine cancers. According to the study, endometrioid uterine cancers are more common but have better survival rates.
The Sister Study
The Sister Study includes data from 33,497 women. This study found that women between the ages of 34 and 74 who used hair straighteners had higher risk of cancer than those who did not use these products. The incidence of uterine cancer was higher for black women than for white women.
Of the 33,497 cases, 378 received a uterine cancer diagnosis. All of them were from women who reported using hair straightening products frequently—more than four times per year.
The study found that 1.64 percent of women who never used hair straightening chemicals developed uterine cancer by the time they reached 70 years of age, while 4.05 percent of frequent users developed uterine cancer by 70 years of age. Of those in the study, 60 percent who said they used hair straightener chemicals self-identified as black women.
What is Uterine Cancer?
As a general term, uterine cancer is cancer of the uterus. The two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer forms in the cell linings of the uterus, while uterine sarcoma forms in the muscle or other tissues in the uterus.
While doctors do not know much about the causes of endometrial cancer, they know that something causes mutations in the endometrium cells’ DNA. These cells line the uterus. The mutation causes normal cells that grow at a fixed rate and die at a set time to continue growing.
These cells don’t die when they are supposed to and grow out of control. As the cells grow, they accumulate and cause a mass. The cells in the tumor (mass) take over nearby cells and can spread to other parts of the body.
Products With Chemicals that Might Cause Uterine Cancer
Many brands of hair straighteners contain the chemicals that might cause uterine cancer. If you have ever used any of these products and have uterine cancer, you might be eligible to recover compensation.
The products include:
- Argan Oil Relaxer
- Beautiful Beginnings Kids—No Mistake Nourishing No-Lye Crème Relaxer
- Botanicals Regular Texturizer
- Butter Blend Sensitive Scalp Rhelaxer
- Conditioning Crème Relaxer
- Healthy Gloss Shea Moisture No-Lye Relaxer
- Herbal Intensive Dual Conditioning Relaxer
- Luxury Moisturizing Shea Butter Relaxer
- MegaSilk Shea Butter Relaxer
- Moisturising Relaxer with Shea Butter
- Multi-Mineral Reduced Ph Crème Relaxer
- No Base Relaxer
- No-Lye Relaxer for girls
- No-Lye Texture Softener
- No-Lye Regular Texturizer
- No-Lye RelaxeSoft & Beautiful
- No Lye Sensitive Scalp Relaxer
- Olive Miracle Deep Conditioning Relaxer
- Olive Miracle Deep Conditioning No-Lye Relaxer
- Olive Miracle Anti-breakage No-Lye Relaxer
- Olive Miracle Dream Kids Relaxer
- Olive Miracle Touch Up No-Lye Relaxer
- Optimum Smooth Multi-Mineral Crème Hair Relaxer
- Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil, including No Base Relaxer, No-Lye Relaxer, New Growth Relaxer, Girls Hair Relaxer, Zone Relaxer, Professional Crème Relaxer and Mild Touch Relaxer
- Originals Olive Oil No-Lye Conditioning Relaxer
- Precise No Lye Conditioning Relaxer Supreme
- Precise No Lye Original Relaxer
- Salon Collection Hair Relaxer Super Strength—Optimum Salon Haircare
- Salon Collection Relaxer Regular Strength—Optimum Salon Haircare
- Sensitive Scalp Rhelaxer
- Super Relaxer
- Touch-Up Plus Moisturizing No-Lye New Growth Relaxer
- Triple Nourished Silkening Relaxer
- Motions Classic Formula Relaxer
- Motions Smooth & Silken Relaxer
- Motions Silkening Shine No-Lye Relaxer
- Isoplus No-Lye Conditioning Relaxer
- TCB Naturals Conditioning No-Lye Hair Relaxer
- TCB Nautrals No Base Crème Hair Relaxer
Even if you do not see the hair relaxer or hair straightener product you used listed, contact a uterine cancer attorney, as the above list is not complete.
What is the Cost of Treating Uterine Cancer?
Researchers determined that the cost of treating uterine cancer was about $1,000 per life year gained if doctors caught the cancer early and the woman had a hysterectomy. The cost increased to $4,000 per life year when doctors used adjuvant radiation to kill the tumor.
This information was from 1999. In today’s dollars, it is about $1,800 per life year for a hysterectomy and for radiation, about $7,200 per life year. These costs are average and only if doctors catch the cancer early in Stage 1.
Not everyone has the best health insurance, and even for those who do, uncovered treatment costs could drain their savings accounts rather quickly. If your uterine cancer is beyond Stage 1, the costs to treat it are significantly higher.
Because researchers found a link to the chemicals in hair straightening products, you might recover the cost of treating uterine cancer if your doctors believe the cancer was caused by using the products.
Product liability attorneys are working with women who have uterine cancer and have used hair straightening products to help them recover the costs of their damages.
A product liability attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for a hair straightening lawsuit. If you used hair straightening products and you have or had uterine cancer, contact a product liability attorney to discuss your eligibility and options.
How to Pay for a Uterine Cancer
You can use your health insurance to cover most costs. If you file a lawsuit or enter into settlement negotiations with the company that manufactured the hair straightener you used, doctors might hold off on collections at your request.
Once you receive a settlement or trial award, a uterine cancer attorney reimburses your health insurance and pays any outstanding medical expenses you have.
Is Uterine Cancer the Only Cancer Associated with Hair Straightening Products?
No. Some studies show that hair relaxers and hair straighteners might cause:
- Endometrial cancer
- Breast cancer
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine sarcoma
These conditions could cause fertility issues or even lead to death. If you have any of these conditions and have seen a doctor, you should seek legal help. If you suspect you have any of these conditions, you should seek medical attention immediately. If a doctor diagnoses you with any of the above conditions, you should also seek legal help to determine whether you qualify for a hair straightener lawsuit.
Recovering Damages for Uterine Cancer and Other Conditions Caused by Hair Straighteners
You could recover compensation for medical expenses and other damages if you have uterine cancer caused by using hair relaxers and hair straighteners with certain chemicals. Depending on the severity of your cancer or whether you lost a loved one to uterine cancer or other conditions caused by using hair straighteners, you might recover:
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Medical expenses, including doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, and prescribed over-the-counter medications
- Future medical expenses
- Therapy expenses, including but not limited to psychological therapy
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Death-related expenses, including funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, and probate attorney’s fees and costs
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make lifelong changes because of the conditions hair straighteners cause, including uterine cancer
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or take part in family activities and events
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to grocery shopping, house cleaning, and lawn maintenance
- The cancer spreads and causes loss of use of bodily functions
Individual Lawsuits vs. Class Action Lawsuits
Your attorney will discuss your options regarding the type of lawsuit you should file. Several people have filed individual lawsuits, and someone has filed a class action lawsuit against L’Oréal.
While many considerations go into determining which type of lawsuit is best for you, as of the end of January 2023, the only class action lawsuit is against L’Oréal. If enough women have used the same products and developed uterine cancer, another class action lawsuit could be feasible.
How Long Does it Take to Receive Compensation?
It depends on several factors, including the type of lawsuit you file. Once you win at trial, receiving your money still takes some time. After the jury makes a ruling, one of the attorneys drafts a final judgment, the other product liability attorney reviews it, and if both agree that it aligns with the court’s order, the attorneys forward it to the court. The court reviews it to ensure it conforms with its order, executes it, files a copy with the clerk, and forwards signed, conformed copies to the attorneys.
The insurance company’s attorney processes the court order, cuts a check, and mails it to your attorney, who then must deposit it into an escrow account. Your attorney cannot take the next steps until the check clears the bank, which could take up to 14 days, depending on the amount.
After the check clears the bank, your attorney pays any outstanding medical expenses you have and reimburses your health insurance as necessary, then cuts you a check.
If you developed uterine cancer because of hair straighteners and hair relaxers, contact a product liability lawyer for your free case evaluation.