National Institute of Health Study on Uterine Cancer Risk from Hair Straightening Product Use

December 10, 2022
National Institute of Health Study on Uterine Cancer Risk from Hair Straightening Product Use

A recent study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that women who used hair straightening products were more at risk of suffering uterine cancer than those that did not. Uterine cancer occurs when cells in the uterus grow uncontrollably and cause a tumor that can result in symptoms like thin white or clear vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding, and intense pain in the pelvis. 

The rate of uterine cancer is growing in the United States, with carcinogens in hair straighteners pointed to as a possible cause. The study also found that black women are at an increased risk of exposure to these uterine cancer-causing carcinogens due to the marketing of hair straighteners and relaxers to black women. As of right now, no connection has been made to other types of hair products, such as hair dyes, bleach, perms, or highlights.

The Rate of Uterine Cancer in Women Increasing

The concerning factor about uterine cancer from hair relaxers is the fact that uterine cancer in the United States has been increasing year after year. Uterine cancer comes in two common forms: endometrial cancer, which affects the uterus’ inner lining (endometrium), and uterine sarcoma, which affects the uterus’ muscle wall (myometrium). Some of the symptoms associated with uterine cancer include unusual vaginal bleeding, thin white or clear vaginal discharge, and lower abdominal pain in the pelvis.

Uterine cancer is the most common cancer that forms in the female reproductive system, currently accounting for 3% of all new cancer cases. Estimates from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) predict that 2022 will have 65,950 new cases of uterine cancer, with 12,550 deaths caused by uterine cancer. The rates of uterine cancer have risen gradually over the past couple of decades, with chemicals in hair-straightening products possibly contributing to that rise.

What Was the National Institute of Health Study?

A study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) included data collected from the Sister Study, a study conducted by an NIH subsidiary, to determine the causal relationship between hair straighteners and uterine cancer. Data was collected from 33,497 U.S. women ages 35-74 to determine what effect frequent use of hair relaxers could have. 

Women followed their routines as normal, with data collected based on medical records and questionnaires answered every year. They were not required to use hair straighteners, but data was collected from those that did over the ten-year process of the study. The data that was collected was then analyzed to determine what effect the consistent use of hair relaxers (which was determined to be at least four times a year) could have on uterine cancer risk.

Frequent Users of Hair Relaxers Increased Risk of Suffering From Uterine Cancer

The NIH study found that women who use hair relaxers at least four times a year were more than double as likely to suffer from uterine cancer than those women who did not use hair relaxers at all. The scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of the body, which means hair-relaxing lotions and creams that contain carcinogens can easily enter the body and cause uterine cancer.

Alexandra White, the head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author of the study, said the following regarding the data: “We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%. This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context - uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”

Black Women at Higher Risk of Suffering From Uterine Cancer After Hair Relaxer Use

Although the study did not look for factors that put racial groups more at risk, it was found that black women suffered from uterine cancer due to hair relaxers at a higher rate than women of other races. Of the women involved in the study that reported using hair-straightening products, 60% were black women.

The prevalence of the use of hair relaxers from a young age for black women puts them more at risk of suffering uterine cancer. The study did not look to diagnose why this is such an issue for black women, but one can assume the eurocentric beauty standards played a factor. Black women may feel the need to artificially straighten their hair to adhere to what society views as more beautiful, leading to black women using hair relaxers from a young age and exposing themselves to uterine cancer risk.

What Chemicals in Hair Straighteners Can Cause Uterine Cancer?

The study did not collect any information regarding the brands of products used as hair relaxers from the women who participated in the study. However, these have been chemicals found in some types of hair straightener products that can be connected to causing uterine cancer.

The following are some of the dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals found in hair-straightening products:

  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde
  • Metals
  • Bisphenol A

Straighteners can cause burns and lesions to the scalp. These can expose a woman to chemicals that can enter through the scalp and cause uterine cancer. During a professional application of hair-relaxing products, someone may have their hair blow-dried or ironed. However, that can also expose the scalp to the carcinogenic chemicals in hair straighteners that can cause uterine cancer.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Claim

Dolman Law Group is a personal injury law firm that helps victims of personal injury incidents, such as medical malpractice, product liability, and car accidents, pursue compensation for damages. Many victims of uterine cancer from hair relaxers are working to consolidate their lawsuits into a multi-district litigation to increase the chances of a global settlement. The product liability lawyers at Dolman Law Group can help you file a lawsuit to get involved in this potential MDL to receive compensation for damages.

Our hair relaxer lawsuit attorneys can provide you with the experienced legal insight and resources necessary to get you fair compensation for injuries caused by hair relaxers. Dolman Law Group has a proven track record getting our clients results they can be proud of and working closely with our clients every step of the way. Consider contacting our form for a free consultation on your case to learn about how we can help you.

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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