Types of Cancer Associated With Hair Relaxers

March 23, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Types of Cancer Associated With Hair Relaxers

Getting the diagnosis that you have cancer is one of the hardest things a person can experience. As medical science has made breakthroughs in understanding the causes and cancer prevention, people have become more health-conscious.

In recent years, smoking has hit an all-time low. Standards on carcinogens in food and water supplies have been more regulated. Unfortunately, research has shown some products we once took for granted as being safe set us back decades in being healthy and reducing the risk of cancer.

Studies have shown a significant increase in the risk of cancer associated with hair relaxers. Since the 1950s and 1960s, hair relaxers have become a common staple in beauty and fashion. The mantra of better living through chemistry seemed to apply to a person’s ability to use hair products to change what nature and genetics gave them.

The consequences of using these products were either ignored or not studied thoroughly enough to allow people to be aware of the risks to their health they were presenting. The companies supplying these products to the public need to be held accountable, which is why victims file uterine cancer lawsuits to do just that. If you have been diagnosed with cancer and have been a user of hair relaxers, you need an attorney who will fight for you to get the compensation you deserve.

The Sister Study

Types of Cancer Associated With Hair Relaxers

Medical research has been trying to understand the causes of cancer and possible links between genetics, environment, and experiences. The Sister Study took a sample size of over 50,000 women throughout the United States between the ages of 35 and 70 years old who had one or more sisters (or mothers) with breast cancer.

Researchers studied them for an average of eleven years to identify new ways to look at the causes of cancer in women. Every few years, the women participating in the study answered questions in a survey, and researchers tracked the medical history of each.

Even though researchers designed the study to understand breast cancer, it yielded some surprising results connected to other cancers. Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer have a common denominator. All are related to imbalances in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Several factors, particularly Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, or EDCs, can cause changes in these hormones.

Study Results Showed a Higher Risk of Cancer

The National Institutes of Health reported that women who used hair straightening products were two times more likely to develop cancers than women who never used hair straighteners. By age 70, the NIH estimates that 1.64 percent of women will develop uterine cancer. For those who used hair straighteners, the NIH expects 4.06 percent to develop cancer.

According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “excess estrogen and imbalance of estrogen and progesterone have been identified as key risk factors for uterine cancer.” A list of known chemicals has been shown to disrupt your body’s natural chemistry, even through casual contact. Out of cosmetics, hair dyes, permanent wave chemicals, and other beauty products, the research showed a surprising increase in the number of women in the study with certain types of EDC-influenced cancers.

Unlike dyes, makeup, and other products, women who used hair relaxers showed an increase in these cancers. A common ingredient used in hair straighteners was a known EDC: Formaldehyde.


Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It was used commonly in wood and building material treatment, embalming fluid, and other functions such as frogs and fetal pigs in dissection. The user applies the hair straightener to the scalp, absorbed into the skin, and passed to the endocrine system. Formaldehyde is a known EDC, and studies have linked the disruptions it causes through repeated use to cancer in hair straightener users.

What Are EDCs?

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, also known as EDCs, are chemicals that influence the natural levels and disrupt the normal balance of chemical hormones your body produces. Your endocrine system uses hormones to regulate everything from your breathing rate, metabolism, growth and repair, and even neurological function.

Hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are important in regulating reproductive health and the many systems connected with these functions.

What Types of Cancer Are Associated With Hair Relaxers?

Many endometrial cancers are associated with the EDCs found in hair relaxers. According to the American Cancer Society, “endometrial cancers begin in the lining of the uterus.”

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer comes in a variety of different types. According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the disease is uncommon in women under 45, and doctors will have diagnosed around 65,950 women by the end of last year. The average age of diagnosis is 60.

Most uterine cancers fall within Type I and Type II.

  • Type I is linked to an excess of estrogen and may grow very slowly. It is a hormone-sensitive cancer and more commonly begins in the uterine lining. You might have heard other names used, such as serous adenocarcinoma, endometrioid carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and uterine carcinosarcoma. Doctors usually treat these variants with surgery. Typically removal of the uterus and any affected tissue. Regular checkups, bloodwork, and testing determine if the cancer is in remission.
  • Type II is a more aggressive form of uterine cancer, which can quickly spread to adjacent organs such as the cervix, bladder, and even bone. Uterine sarcoma, another name for this type, develops in the uterine wall, a muscle layer called the myometrium. According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, subtypes include uterine leiomyosarcoma and endometrial stromal sarcoma. Treatment plans vary, but surgery, including hysterectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy, might be part of your regimen to fight this type. Generally, Type II uterine cancers have a poor prognosis.

Breast Cancer

Since EDCs also influence breast cancer, many breast cancers are likely to be connected to using hair relaxers. Breast cancer may be very aggressive and require lumpectomy, partial mastectomy (removal of breast tissue), or full mastectomy (removal of all breast tissue) to prevent the spread of this disease and ensure the patient’s quality of life.

Doctors may also require radiation and chemotherapy treatments to fight the growth of future cancerous cells and prevent their spread or metastasis to other systems, such as lymph nodes, lungs, bones, and even the brain.

Other Cancers

Since endometrial cancers and other cancers share the commonality of being linked to sex hormones which EDCs can affect, research has shown a correlation with other types of cancer, such as cervical cancer and ovarian cancer. More research still needs to be done in these areas since the findings are still very recent, and researchers are discovering more. According to the Sister Study, breast cancer had a higher rate in adolescent and adult use. Ovarian cancer was also higher.

Black Women

Culturally, black and Hispanic women were higher consumers of hair relaxers than other ethnicities, often with repeated use over the years. The rate of women who contracted cancer with repeated use (four or more times per year) increased the risk of developing cancer. These products have been advertised as safe for use, even though they contain known carcinogens and EDCs.

Damages Associated With Cancer

A cancer diagnosis begins a long and painful battle with a terrible disease. Expensive surgeries, agonizing treatment plans such as chemotherapy, and the fatigue and health problems associated with radiation therapy are grueling. They take their toll on the patient’s body and emotional well-being.

Throughout cancer treatment, the patient might have to take time off from their job, fight insurance companies to cover expenses for treatments, and, even with so much fighting, eventually may succumb to the disease. Those left behind after their death are left to take care of the bills and the loss of a loved one they can never replace.

The mental anguish, physical discomfort, and years of struggle with a cancer diagnosis are preamble to mean a life-changing event that is never easily recovered. Here are just a few symptoms of cancer as it relates to life outside your body.

These were preventable but for a company that only had its profits in mind.

  • Medical bills: Ranging into hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond, you will need surgery and expensive and uncomfortable cancer treatments.
  • Rehabilitation: Physical therapy and possibly having to start over with a new vocation due to your injuries.
  • Therapy: The emotional toll cancer takes on you and your loved ones require physical and mental healing. Dealing with cancer is a traumatic experience, from the initial diagnosis to the discomfort of surgery and treatment, to the lingering effects and constant worry that it still isn’t over. Therapy is a good way to cope with a cancer diagnosis, but it can be cost-prohibitive.
  • Lost time at work: The time needed to fight cancer can stretch for months and even years. You might have to leave your job to take on this challenge. These lost wages can affect your livelihood and your ability to support yourself and your family.
  • Disability: There’s no telling how far cancer will go, sometimes leaving its victims with quality of life problems that limit their ability to support themselves or lead a fulfilling life they would have had otherwise.
  • Loss of reproductive ability: Cancer can be detrimental to having children, taking away something near and dear to many.
  • Chronic pain: Treatment of cancer can lead to chronic pain, which health practitioners need to treat to ensure the quality of life.
  • Death: Many don’t win the battle against cancer. Their loved ones try to put together the pieces of their life, with one big one missing. How will they continue to support themselves? How can they start over after a loss like this? An attorney can help get the compensation needed to begin again.

Fighting for Your Rights

Cancer Associated With Hair Relaxers

No one ever asks to get cancer, and those responsible for providing a product they demonstrated to be safe for use need to be held accountable. While you are recovering from cancer treatment or if you have a loved one who has lost the battle with cancer, the other struggle of fighting those responsible for these damages might be the furthest thing from your mind.

With all sorts of deadlines, paperwork, and the complexities of the court process, the battle you already have on your hands is more than enough without complicating matters. A skilled attorney with experience in personal injury litigation can relieve much of the stress of fighting insurance companies.

The challenge of fighting an apathetic corporate system that cares less about protecting its customers than about making profits and maintaining its bottom line is not for the faint of heart. Insurance companies will likely try to give you the lowest possible amount to settle out of court just to save money. Hiring an attorney typically yields better results and takes the stress off your shoulders when navigating the process.

Hire an Attorney

A cancer diagnosis and even the loss of a loved one due to cancer are the most difficult things anyone will encounter. With the right allies, this fight doesn’t have to be more problematic. There come times in your life when you wish someone had your back.

A personal injury attorney brings experience working cases, from negotiating with insurance companies to getting the case to trial and arguing your case with facts and evidence if needed. Get in touch with one and join the many others fighting to have their voices heard.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

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 successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $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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