Chemical Hair Straighteners and Relaxer Lead to Cancer
A new study from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that women who use chemical hair relaxers and straighteners may have a higher risk of uterine cancer. The findings were published in the October 2022 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Hair relaxers are used to straighten the natural curls in the hair. Most hair relaxers consist of toxic chemicals like metals, formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates, which are associated with a higher risk of cancer, especially hormone-sensitive ones.
Details of the Study
Researchers used data from over 33,000 women in an ongoing study looking for risk factors for breast cancer and other health conditions. The women were asked about using different hair products in the past year, including hair relaxers, straighteners and dyes, and permanent or body waves.
After over a decade of follow-up, those who reported using hair straightening and relaxer products were nearly twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than those who did not.
The study has also linked straightener use with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Greater Impact on Black Women
About 60 percent of the women in the study who reported using straighteners identified as Black. While the study didn’t find that the link between uterine cancer risk and straightener use differed by race, the effects may be more significant for Black women because they’re more likely to use these products.
Hair relaxers are used by the Black community more than any other race. An estimate shows African American consumers spend as much as 22 percent of the $42 billion-a-year hair care products market.
Putting the Data into Context
Researchers estimated that nearly 2 percent of women who never used hair straighteners develop uterine cancer by age 70, but that risk goes up to over 4 percent for frequent users. They said this doubling rate is concerning since uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.
While the researchers found a possible link between uterine cancer and hair straightener use, the study did not conclude that using these products causes uterine cancer. They said more research is needed to confirm the findings, determine if hair products contribute to uterine cancer, and identify the chemicals that may increase women’s risk of cancers.
Current Court Case
A lawsuit has been filed in Georgia for a plaintiff whose wife died from uterine cancer linked to her use of hair relaxers for years. The victim also suffered from endometriosis linked to the use of hair relaxers. Attorneys for the plaintiff said the lawsuit was about exposing dangerous products.
The victim used hair relaxers from the early 1960s to 2018. She passed away in January 2020 from complications related to uterine cancer and chemotherapy due to using hair relaxer products. The suit claimed that hair relaxer manufacturers withheld information from consumers about the product’s risks, including increased cancer risk, benefitting from the hundreds of millions of dollars they made from the lives they put in danger.
Attorneys for the plaintiff argued that African American consumers are unknowingly targeted by those in the industry whose marketing boosts Eurocentric beauty standards, straight hair. The attorneys said makers of hair relaxers fail to adequately warn consumers of how extremely dangerous these hair relaxers are, even when used for the purpose they were designed. Without sufficient manufacturer information, consumers would not know the dangers or risks they face.
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California Personal Injury Attorneys
I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in California. If you have developed cancer or a family member has died after using a hair strengthener or relaxer, call our law office immediately at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Our experienced legal team will provide free, friendly advice and determine the best way to proceed with a personal injury or wrongful death claim.
See how we have obtained successful Verdicts and Settlements for our clients.
Photo by Giselle Lazcano on Unsplash
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