For decades, many women with naturally curly hair have relied on chemical hair relaxers products to achieve a straightened look. In October of 2022, a team of National Health Institute researchers has recently completed a study that revealed an alarming connection between the use of hair straightening products and uterine cancer.
Beauty companies like L’Oreal are now being accused of negligence for failing to warn women of the dangers associated with their products and for creating these carcinogenic hair relaxers in the first place. If women who have been diagnosed with uterine cancer can establish that the makers of chemical hair relaxers are liable, they may be able to recover damages for the costs they have incurred as a result of these cancer-causing hair products.
Hair Straightening Products Double a Woman’s Risk of Developing Uterine Cancer
An explosive NIH study has uncovered the link between a rare form of cancer and the repeated use of hair products intended to straighten curly hair. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute study relied on data collected in a longitudinal study known as the Sister Study. The sample was composed of over 50,000 U.S. women between 35 and 74 who had a sister that had been diagnosed with breast cancer but had not developed cancer themselves at the beginning of the study.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute study linking hair products to uterine cancer looked at 33,497 of these women. Over 11 years, 378 women in the study developed uterine cancer. A closer examination of the data revealed that there was a correlation between the use of chemical hair straighteners and uterine cancer.
Women who reported using chemical hair relaxers 4 or more times a year are significantly increasing their risk of uterine cancer, according to research conducted by the NIH. For comparison, the average woman has about a 1.64% chance of developing uterine cancer by 70. When the use of chemical hair straighteners is factored in, that chance goes up to 4.05%. While uterine cancer remains rare among women in the U.S., the significance of this finding should not be dismissed.
Chemical Hair Relaxers Put Black Women at a Higher Risk For Certain Types of Cancer
First, a certain subset of women is disproportionately at risk for uterine cancer due to their higher usage rates of chemical hair straighteners. 60% of the women who reported using these types of chemical straighteners in the Sister Study identified as Black, making this trend relevant. The rate of uterine cancer has noticeably increased over the last decade, particularly among Black women, supporting this data. There may be a causal relationship between the persistent use of chemical hair relaxers and uterine cancer, as these products are used at higher rates among Black women.
Hair Straightening Products Linked to Higher Breast Cancer Rates in Black Women
A previous study conducted by Boston University has already established the carcinogenic properties of chemical hair relaxers, which are more commonly used by Black women. The Black Women’s Health Study has tracked 59,000 Black women since 1995, paying special attention to the rates of serious health conditions like lupus and cancer among this population. One concerning trend is the fatality rates for Black women with breast cancer.
The breast cancer mortality rate for black women is a staggering 40% higher than for white women, which may indicate that other factors outside of healthcare access are at play. Using Boston University’s research, a team of researchers argues that a significant variable is the heavy use of chemical hair relaxers. They report that this behavior increases the risk of breast cancer by 30% among black women who consistently use chemical hair relaxers over a long period of time.
Chemical Hair Straighteners Connected to Mulitple Types of Cancer
Like breast cancer, uterine cancer can be caused by changes in hormone levels. Based on the current data available, researchers believe that the chemicals included in these straighteners may be causing uterine cancer by mimicking estrogen, a hormone that increases the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, other known carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde have been found in these products. The similarity between the types of cancer that are being linked to chemical hair straighteners may lend credibility to the claim that chemical hair straighteners are responsible for certain types of hormone-related cancers in women.
Significance of Discovering Uterine Cancer is Linked to Chemical Hair Relaxers
The consequences of uterine cancer can have a profound impact on a woman’s reproductive health and her ability to have children. When caught early, most women survive uterine cancer. However, the treatment for uterine cancer can be brutal. In many cases, it includes chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy.
In severe cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary, which prevents pregnancy and induces menopause. When uterine cancer is not found until its later stages, survival rates drop drastically to 17%. Therefore, this research is critical in understanding the causes of uterine cancer so that women may take preventative measures and researchers can devise more effective treatments.
Additionally, if the relationship between the use of chemical hair relaxers and uterine cancer is indeed causal, the companies who make these products have been promoting a cancer-causing product to communities of color for decades, leaving them exposed to accusations of negligence. This could mean a class action lawsuit against the negligent makers, which may allow victims and their families to recover costs of medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Recovering Damages in a Chemical Hair Relaxer Cancer Lawsuit
When you are suffering from a serious health issue like uterine cancer, you may find yourself with unexpected financial burdens, in addition to a host of emotional repercussions. Personal injury lawsuits are intended to help victims of negligence seek compensation for these types of losses. Compensatory damages may fall under economic damages or non-economic damages.
Damages may include:
- Medical bills
- Hormone therapy
- Hospital stays
- Job-related losses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Missed promotions
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality of life
- Wrongful death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of parental guidance
- Loss of services and support
Economic damages are designed to reimburse injured parties for monetary costs. For example, after undergoing a hysterectomy to treat uterine cancer, you may be forced to miss work to recuperate. In doing so, you may forfeit a paycheck, which would be considered an economic damage.
Additionally, many people who are diagnosed with cancer endure a host of emotional losses, which can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. Intangible costs like these can also be acknowledged in a product liability claim as non-economic damages.
Pursuing Legal Action Against Hair Relaxer Makers
When a manufacturer releases a new beauty product onto the market, the product in question must be approved by the FDA, which regulates cosmetics in addition to food and drugs. If a product has certain known risks, the makers must provide consumers with an appropriate warning label.
The emerging hair relaxer cancer lawsuits claim that cosmetic companies like L’Oreal failed on both counts for designing a carcinogenic product and failing to warn consumers about it. Plaintiffs face a challenge in demonstrating that their uterine cancer is a direct result of the use of chemical hair relaxers in a product liability lawsuit.
If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer after using chemical hair straighteners or relaxers, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our firm offers free consultations for prospective clients to discuss the details of their individual cases and explore their legal options for compensation.