Journal of the National Cancer Institute Study Links Hair Relaxers to Cancer

Journal of the National Cancer Institute Study Links Hair Relaxers to Cancer

When you use an FDA-approved cosmetic product, you should reasonably be able to expect that it will not cause you undue harm when utilized properly. However, a growing number of women have accused the makers of chemical hair straightening products of designing products that increase the risk of uterine cancer and neglecting to warn their customers about this danger.

Women are beginning to file product liability lawsuits against hair relaxer makers like L’Oreal in order to obtain compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages like loss of quality of life. If you have developed uterine cancer after habitual use of chemical hair straighteners, you should consider seeking legal representation. A personal injury lawyer with experience handling mass tort claims will be able to assist you in enumerating your damages and calculating their value.

Chemical hair relaxers are already known to contain carcinogens, but thus far they had only been connected to breast cancer. A new analysis of existing data has exposed these chemical straighteners as an even greater threat. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute recently published a study that examined data collected in a project known as the Sister Study. 

The original Sister Study collected information from over 50,000 women who had a sister that had been diagnosed with breast cancer but were cancer-free themselves at the beginning of the study. Over the course of 11 years, researchers obtained a variety of data about their health and personal habits.

The new study took a closer look at this data and narrowed the sample down to about 30,000 women. They found that chemical hair relaxer usage was positively correlated with uterine cancer rates, with the risk of developing uterine cancer doubling for women who used chemical relaxers frequently. This increased risk applies primarily to women who use chemical hair straighteners 4 or more times a year, for multiple years. While this may seem like a high usage rate, this applies to many Black women who began using these products as children or teens. 

Estrogen-Like Chemicals in Defective Chemical Relaxers Are a Carcinogen

Uterine cancer can be triggered by fluctuations in hormone levels, specifically estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that heavily influences the female reproductive system. The chemicals found in certain hair relaxers are similar to estrogen. When a woman uses one of these defective hair relaxers, she is essentially artificially increasing the levels of estrogen in her body as the product is absorbed through the scalp.

The fake estrogen chemicals are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals because they upset the balance within the body. When estrogen levels are too high, it can instigate abnormal cell growth in the uterus, causing uterine cancer. Uterine cancer is rare in the U.S., and on the surface, it appears to have high survival rates. However, this is not the full picture of the effects uterine cancer can have.

First of all, uterine cancer which is discovered in later stages has an alarmingly low survival rate of 17% if it has been allowed to spread. Second, there is a significant racial disparity in survival rates for uterine cancer, with Black women being twice as likely as white women to die from it. Third, even for cases that are caught relatively early, the treatment can be expensive, painful, and leave a woman infertile.

Recovering Damages in a Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuit

Women with uterine cancer may have to effectively put their lives on hold in order to seek treatment and recover. That can mean negative consequences for their paychecks and careers, as well as their families. Both the financial and emotional repercussions of another party’s negligence can be repaid in a product liability lawsuit, provided that they are able to prove that their damages are connected to their injury. These are known as compensatory damages, which can be further categorized as either economic or non-economic.

There are a variety of financial ramifications that may qualify as economic damages, which can typically be validated with a receipt. For example, a woman with uterine cancer who has to leave work early to drive to doctors' appointments is suffering financial consequences from using a product she had every reason to believe was safe. She is potentially missing out on an hourly wage and tips, in addition to incurring the expense of transportation to appointments. Costs like these can be reimbursed in a product liability lawsuit.

Examples of Damages in a Hair Straightener Cancer Lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
    • Surgery
    • Medication
    • Chemotherapy
    • Hormone therapy
    • Radiation
    • Hospital stays
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Reduced earning capacity
    • Missed promotions
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of consortium

In addition to the more straightforward economic costs associated with treating cancer, women and their families often face significant emotional losses, which can be accounted for with non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are particularly relevant in this instance, as they may be extensive. The value of any non-economic damages are subjective by nature, so consulting a skilled product liability lawyer would be beneficial to calculating how much a hair relaxer cancer lawsuit may be worth.

Holding Negligent Parties Accountable in a Product Liability Lawsuit

In order for a manufacturer, distributor, or other makers of a defective product to be considered liable, the plaintiff and their legal representative must establish that they were owed a duty of care. In this case, the makers of chemical hair straighteners have a clear obligation to consumers to ensure the safe design of their products, as well as to provide applicable warning labels on their products, as laid out by the FDA. 

The next hurdle for plaintiffs will be providing evidence that the defendant’s failure to create a carcinogen-free product as well as their failure to warn consumers of their defective product constituted a breach of duty that led to their injury, uterine cancer. Once this is established, plaintiffs will need to be able to demonstrate the damages they experienced as a result of their uterine cancer.

Personal injury lawyers can provide you with the legal advice you need in order to maximize your compensation. If you have received a uterine cancer diagnosis after repeated use of chemical hair relaxers, contacting a seasoned product liability attorney is a wise choice that can help you safeguard the value of your claim. Our firm has garnered valuable expertise over the last decade, which you can take advantage of in a free consultation with a knowledgeable chemical hair relaxer uterine cancer lawyer.


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 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 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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