NIH Study Finds Black Women Have Increased Risk for Uterine Cancer Due to Hair Relaxer Use

NIH Study Finds Black Women Have Increased Risk for Uterine Cancer Due to Hair Relaxer Use

A study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is sounding the alarm about the risks associated with the frequent use of chemical hair straighteners or relaxers. According to their data, Black women face an increased risk of developing uterine cancer because they tend to use these products at higher rates.

The makers of chemical hair relaxers, like L’Oreal and Soft Sheen, are currently facing multiple product liability lawsuits for allowing these potentially harmful products to reach the market. Additionally, the plaintiffs in these lawsuits claim that these major beauty companies had a duty of care to warn women of the danger associated with their hair straightening products. Black women should be aware of their elevated risk of uterine cancer due to their higher levels of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. 

NIH Study Warns Black Women About Increased Uterine Cancer Risk

Researchers from the National Institute of Health analyzed data from a longitudinal study called the Sister Study and discovered a causal relationship between the chemicals found in hair relaxers and uterine cancer. Based on their findings, they determined that women who use chemical hair relaxers 4 or more times a year more than doubles their risk for uterine cancer as compared to women who did not use chemical hair straighteners.

This point is particularly salient for Black women, as evidenced by the fact that 60% of the women who reported consistently using chemical hair relaxers identified as Black. In many cases, Black women begin using these toxic products as girls or teenagers multiple times a year to maintain a straightened hairstyle. That can mean years or even decades of exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are thought to cause uterine cancer.

Uterine cancer is sensitive to any disruption of the body’s hormone balance. The chemicals contained in these hair relaxers are comparable to estrogen, a hormone that can trigger uterine cancer when it is present in abnormally high levels. This constitutes a disturbance of the body’s endocrine system which regulates hormones, hence the label of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

The Dangers of Uterine Cancer

When the signs of uterine cancer are discovered early, treatment is generally quite effective. Uterine cancer can often be treated with hormone therapy, as well as more traditional methods of combatting cancer, such as chemotherapy. When uterine cancer has reached its more advanced stages, medical providers may recommend a surgery known as a hysterectomy to prevent the cancer from spreading. A hysterectomy removes the uterus, prompting menopause and preventing a woman from having children.

The most serious cases occur when uterine cancer has spread from the reproductive organs to the other parts of the body and is no longer localized in the uterus. Less than 20% of women who are diagnosed with metastasized uterine cancer survive another 5 years, according to data from the National Cancer Institute.

Black Women With Uterine Cancer Have Higher Mortality Rates

They also note that “Black women were twice as likely to die of uterine cancer overall” as women of other races, an alarming statistic. Some researchers believe this new link between uterine cancer and chemical hair straighteners, which are largely used by Black women, could partially fill the knowledge gap of why Black women die at higher rates from uterine cancer than women of other races.

Recovering Damages in a Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

The treatment for uterine cancer can be quite invasive, which often takes a toll on the mental and emotional health of the patient, as well as her finances. Women who develop this rare form of cancer as a result of the negligence of a beauty company deserve compensation for their injuries and damages. 

These damages may be economic or non-economic in nature. Financial burdens incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s negligence can be claimed as economic damages. They have an established cost, which makes their value more difficult to dispute. Plaintiffs can also claim non-economic damages in a product liability lawsuit. 

Examples of Damages in a Hair Straightener Cancer Lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
    • Surgery
    • Medication
    • Hospital stays
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation
    • Hormone therapy
    • Home medical equipment
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Missed promotions
    • Reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Wrongful death
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Loss of companionship
    • Loss of parental guidance
    • Loss of services and support

Non-Economic Damages in a Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Lawsuit Can Be Significant

Many women who undergo treatment for uterine cancer also experience emotional losses, like having to miss out on major life events due to the side effects of their treatment, or the pain an suffering related to certain procedures. The treatments available can also compromise fertility, so they may permanently lose out on the chance to have children. 

This can be a devastating non-economic loss for some women like Jenny Mitchell, one of the first women to file a hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuit. She underwent a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with uterine cancer she claims is related to her heavy use of chemical hair straighteners. While there is no objective price tag attached to this type of loss, it is no less deserving of compensation.

Proving Liability and Recovering Compensation For Defective Hair Relaxers

Product liability lawsuits are typically based on one of three types of negligence claims. In the case of defective chemical hair relaxers, plaintiffs argue that beauty companies breached their duty of care to consumers to design safe products and to warn them in the event that those products carried significant risks, like cancer. The companies facing scrutiny have categorically denied that their products are unsafe and claim that they have met FDA requirements

If the plaintiffs can meet the burden of proof and show that the beauty companies in question were negligent in their duty of care to consumers, they must then connect their uterine cancer to the damages they incurred. With the guidance of a product liability lawyer, women who have been harmed by the negligence of hair relaxer makers like L’Oreal, Strength of Nature Global, Soft Sheen Carson, Dabur International, Dabur USA, and Namaste Laboratories have a better chance of securing fair settlements for their damages. 

A personal injury lawyer can prove instrumental in negotiations, as they will be familiar with the tactics that the defendant's representative may employ to dismiss or diminish your claim. If you have developed uterine cancer after the consistent use of chemical hair straighteners, we encourage you to reach out to our team to schedule a free consultation.


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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